Brexit Secretary David Davis: 'I want to protect Green Port Hull in EU trade talks'

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 21 Dec 2017

Protecting the future of Siemens' factory in Hull will be a key aim for Brexit Secretary David Davis when he goes to strike a trade deal in Brussels.

Mr Davis, MP for Haltemprice & Howden, is due to return to the Belgian capital in the New Year to meet with European Union negotiators and kick-off talks about a future trading arrangement.

And he said ensuring Hull’s £300 million port complex can export its offshore wind turbine blades to the continent as cheaply as possible after Brexit is firmly on his radar.

The Conservative administration appears to have ruled out continued membership of the tax-free single market and customs union – but Mr Davis said he would be fighting for “free and frictionless trade” during the upcoming trade discussions.

He said: “Our aims for this next stage in negotiations are clear – we want to leave the EU successfully, allowing us to grasp the opportunities outside its boundaries.

“But I’m also determined to agree an ambitious new free trade agreement, unlike any other, that allows for the most free and frictionless trade in goods and services.

“It will mean that major companies like Siemens, that employs 700 people in Hull, are still able to import parts for the wind turbine plant in an affordable way — and export to Europe.”

Siemens was vocal in speaking out against a vote to leave the EU during the referendum and it has continued to talk-up the benefits of close economic links with the EU since the result.

The German manufacturing company has called for the Government to look for a deal that enables it to “trade as freely as possible” with EU member states after the UK’s exit from the bloc – a position echoed by city MP Karl Turner.

The Hull East MP said it was “vital a deal gets as close to single market access as it can for the offshore turbine industry”.

While Hull-made blades are being used to build UK wind farms, such as the recently completed Race Bank - served out of Grimsby - off the coast of Lincolnshire, Siemens’ long-term plan is to make and sell blades for use in other renewable energy projects across Europe.

The Cabinet minister also recognised the importance of the Port of Hull to trade coming from mainland Europe, saying it was his team’s aim to “avoid any extra bureaucracy for businesses or new checks on goods coming through our ports”.

The phase one deal of the Brexit negotiations was signed-off by the European Council on Friday, allowing phase two trade talks to begin.

Phase one involved guaranteeing rights for EU citizens living in the UK, agreeing “principles” over a rumoured £35-39bn divorce bill and establishing a joint holding position on avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

Mr Davis – first elected in 1987 – would not confirm the exact figure of the divorce bill but said the final sum would be “significantly less than the expectations many people had – despite the wilder demands from Europe”.

He said the deal to secure the rights of three million EU citizens living in the UK should put Humber business fears at ease.

EU nationals will be granted all the same rights as British citizens, including in terms of access to employment and health care, as long they register with the Home Office and have been living in the UK for more than five years before Brexit.

“EU citizens working in factories, farms and the fishing industry, make a massive contribution to our society, and we want them to stay after Brexit,” said Mr Davis.

Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, has said the EU is prepared to offer a transition period of 21 months after the Brexit deadline, meaning Britain would remain in the single market and customs union until December 31, 2020. The UK would have to abide by new EU rules in that time but have no say in their creation.

The Prime Minister had originally indicated she wanted a two-year “implementation” phase, keeping the UK in the single market until spring 2021.

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