John Caudwell – Daily Telegraph – Britain must be free to sign trade deals on our terms

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator last week made clear that a “non-regression clause” tying Britain to the EU’s regulation is a condition for a free-trade deal. For me, and for many others who voted to leave, this is an extremely worrying development.

As I argued throughout the Brexit campaign, the principal opportunity presented by the UK leaving the EU is the ability to sign trade deals with non-EU countries. This means being free from European regulation and being free from the bureaucracy that is symptomatic of the entire Brussels machine. The cosy club of Europe has made it more difficult to do business with the rest of the world for far too long.

For Michel Barnier to peg the UK to European regulation would, quite possibly, be the worst possible outcome of the negotiations. What the UK needs is to have strong trading relationships with other leading economies, not dictated by Europe. That is where the real growth opportunities lie.

The EU’s share of global trade is falling, and our share of exports going to the EU has dropped from 54pc to 43pc from 2006 to 2016. The likes of Brazil, Canada and Australia must be new predominant trading partners. And we must strike deals with our old friends, like India, the United States, and of course, the EU.

Being free to negotiate trade deals around the world without interference from the EU’s bureaucracy gives us a very clear advantage over our European neighbours. I have always been against meaningless bureaucracy and regulation, whether that be in business or in everyday life, and the red tape that is at the centre of European operations is the worst possible example of destructive bureaucracy.

It will therefore be far, far easier for the UK to strike trade deals as a single country, without the constraints of European regulation. Look at Chile. Our population is three times bigger, and our economy 10 times bigger than theirs. But Chile has managed to get trade deals with some of the biggest economies around the world, including China, the US, Japan, Canada, South Korea, and Australia. While the EU has trade deals with countries worth a combined £4.7 trillion in GDP, Chile now has trade deals with countries worth almost ten times more at around £40 trillion.

The case for a Global Britain is obvious. But amid this positive progress we must not underestimate the persistence of those who seek to deny voters what they demanded, and who are reluctant to bring about Global Britain. This includes Jeremy Corbyn and his support for a customs union. Taking back control is not compatible with remaining in the customs union. We’d be stuck in a position in which we couldn’t make our own trade deals – what sort of control is that? For Britain to be a leader in “global free trade”, we simply cannot succumb in the negotiations to joining a customs union.

Our negotiators in Europe must remain strong – getting the best deal possible is never easy, but it is within reach. It has long been said that our Prime Minister Theresa May is a Remainer, but now more than ever we require the Prime Minister’s heart and mind to be focused on Brexit. We cannot succumb to EU bullying tactics, and instead must capitalise on the UK’s overwhelming trade deficit with Europe.

Specifically, we should remain confident of securing a free trade deal with Europe on terms that are of the greatest benefit for the UK. As I have argued many times before, we are in an undoubted position of strength thanks to the £318bn worth of goods and services exported to the UK from EU countries, representing a trade surplus on their part of £82bn. Were that to greatly diminish, it could have a catastrophic impact on jobs, businesses and industries across the continent. It is in the economic interest of all parties to sustain a positive trading relationship.

The EU is at its strongest when its member states are absolutely convinced of the advantages that are to be had by being a part of the European Community. The UK left because it wasn’t convinced of the supposed merits of the EU. The subsequent tactics adopted by negotiators, designed to bully and harm the UK, are morally corrupt, and while it may achieve the political goal of keeping Europe together, it would be doing so at the expense of democracy and commercial logic.

I remain extremely optimistic about our future outside the EU, despite the political challenges that remain and the position of Michel Barnier. I believe that UK businesses will prove resilient and come out the other end stronger and better adapted than ever before. Nervousness in the short-term in the business community is normal; but in the medium to long term, I can only see absolute positives of Brexit.

The possibilities for the British economy and for British businesses free from European regulation are limitless providing the politicians do their job properly and remain strong.

To not do so would be a disaster.

 

John Caudwell is the founder of Phones4U

 

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