Wednesday saw Britain turn the page to a new chapter of optimism and success. Our new Prime Minister embodies a nation with renewed self-confidence, one that’s not afraid to do things differently. And there couldn’t be a better example of that than trade. For too long, Britain has been tied to an inward-looking, protectionist EU bloc.
When countries make it harder for products to come in from overseas, prices are kept high, which is bad for families trying to make ends meet. What’s more, other countries retaliate with high tariffs, making it harder for businesses to export and succeed.
So as we leave the EU, we’re going to strike the free-trade deals that will open up new markets for our products, and give people access to a greater variety of goods and services from across the globe. I couldn’t be more delighted to have been made International Trade Secretary to drive forward that vital part of making Brexit a success.
Since I arrived at the department, I’ve been impressed with the world-class negotiators we have got, and I want to unleash their skills to deliver for the British people.
We will maintain existing trade agreements but also seize new opportunities – with Commonwealth countries, with which we share so much history, as well as with our other long-standing partners and a range of exciting new markets that are calling out for British products.
My department has already locked in deals covering £85 billion worth of trade, which will apply whether we leave the EU with a deal or without one on October 31.
My main priority now will be agreeing a free-trade deal with the US, building on the successful phone call between the Prime Minister and President Trump. I will be getting on a plane to the US in the next few weeks to move this forward. And, at the outset of this process, I want to make it clear that that will never mean putting our NHS up for sale.
As I go out to strike these deals, I’ll have those two groups in mind – our great, exporting businesses, and the families who want the best prices on their weekly shop.
First, we’re going to support our fantastic businesses by ensuring they’re ready to trade on October 31. The UK is home to some of the world’s greatest exporters – from Scotch whisky to Brompton bikes – and we’ll act swiftly to give them the confidence to act on the world stage and promote their wares. As we do so, we’ll make sure that our regulation is more flexible than the EU straitjacket, so that our fantastic tech and financial services sectors can succeed.
We are also going to be turbocharging our economy at home by creating new free ports. This will transform great port cities and trading hubs across our country as manufacturing is moved back to Britain and new businesses arrive, creating jobs and opportunities.
Free trade is great for business, but we shouldn’t forget the needs of families. Cutting taxes and getting more people into work are both important, but if trade barriers mean staples such as food and clothes are more expensive, then people’s pay packets don’t go as far. Trade protectionism is a stealth tax on the poorest families.
By contrast, when goods come into our country tariff-free, it means more products on our shelves, more choice and lower prices. That’s why, as Trade Secretary for a truly independent free-trading nation, I will be enthusiastically banging the drum for free trade – not just in the interests of businesses, but of families who rely on good prices to make ends meet.
At its heart, the case for free trade is the case for freedom. It’s the ability for people to improve their lives by exchanging goods and services without undue interference from the authorities. My ambition is no less than to make Britain the world’s beacon of free trade.
We’re known for being a country that led the world in free trade that brought prosperity across the globe. Working with the Prime Minister and Chancellor, we will have the resources we need to finally stand tall among our allies as an independent trading nation.
Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, we will lead again.