MY WEEK IN WESTMINSTER

This week there has been a good deal of focus on the future of trade, when Britain leaves the European Union.

If we are to make Brexit a success then we need to ensure, not only that we have an effective strategy for leaving the EU, but that we simultaneously look to improve our share of global trade.

It is vitally important that, in order to for many of our key local businesses to survive and flourish in the long-term, the Government must negotiate good terms of trade between the UK, EU, USA and other major world markets.

The encouraging news is that new opportunities are out there, with markets that have been relatively neglected by the UK in the past, queuing up to enter into trade talks.

Just this week, Mercosur, the trade bloc that includes most of the major South American economies, expressed a desire to enter into immediate trade talks with the UK – having failed to agree terms with the EU despite many years of negotiations.

The problem we face, however, is not the world’s lack of interest in trading with the UK, it is our current lack of expertise in negotiating trade deals.

The establishment of the new Department for International Trade is an encouraging first step; now the challenge for the Government is to staff it with people who are experienced and capable enough to do this difficult work.

This is also a challenge for business leaders, especially managers of our small and medium-sized enterprises, to fix their eyes on the prospects that exist abroad.

While the Government must lay the groundwork and provide support, it is up to our businesses to seize this unique opportunity to expand their operations in other countries.

One of the great things about our area is the existence of large, global companies, with broad horizons, such as BAE Systems and Westinghouse.

But you don’t have to be a large corporation to access world markets, and I would encourage the region’s smaller businesses to approach the Government for information on exporting abroad.

On Saturday I went to Normoss and Staining Gala, which was as good fun as ever, and Queen Luci and her retinue stole the show; their parents must have been very proud.

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