Photo: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

Trade report: new deals can boost every corner of the UK

I want the whole Union to look beyond the comfort zone of friends on the continent
September 1, 2019

Tailor agreements to the unique strengths of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Photo: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

When we leave the EU on 31st October, all four nations of our great United Kingdom will enter a new era of trade. For the first time in more than 40 years, we will be free to build new trade agreements with some of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the world. That freedom means the ability to tailor agreements to the unique and individual strengths of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Already, we are making excellent progress in talks with close allies like the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and as we exit the EU, we will be aggressively pursuing ambitious new free trade deals with our partners around the world.

When our team sits at the negotiating table with our biggest trading partners, we will not just be negotiating on behalf of Westminster or big business. We will be representing every corner of the United Kingdom, working towards a deal that can unleash the economic potential of businesses across the Union. We are working for the family-run businesses selling goods overseas and for the start-ups selling their services around the globe.

In my first month in the job as trade policy minister, I travelled across the UK, meeting businesses and governments to make sure that their voices are at the heart of our future trade agreements. I’ve visited the Glenkinchie Distillery in Scotland, Concrete Canvas and Tata Steel in Wales, and AJ Power and Thales Air Defence in Northern Ireland.

We will also boost investment in the regions through the roll-out of new free ports across the UK, providing business-friendly hubs to facilitate trade. These could be free of unnecessary checks and paperwork, and include customs and tax benefits to attract much-needed investment to our towns and cities. Guided by an expert advisory panel, up to 10 free ports will be created with the potential to turbocharge our economy.

Finally—and perhaps most crucially—we need to make sure that our great British businesses have the tools they need to take advantage of those opportunities. After all, it is not governments which trade, but businesses. It is my job to help make sure businesses are ready from day one.

Free trade is one of the pillars of our economy and has long created prosperity for every UK nation. The vote to leave was not a vote for isolation, or a vote to turn away from the world around us. In the run-up to exit day, I want the whole Union to look beyond the comfort zone of friends on the continent. Let us champion free and open trade. Britain is open for business.

Now read Angus MacNeil, chair of the Trade Select Committee