My Speech at the Global Britain Debate in the House of Commons

I beg to move,

That this House has considered global Britain.

As the clock strikes 11 tomorrow night, we will start building the UK’s future as a sovereign trading nation. I should make clear that there are many aspects of global Britain that have nothing to do with trade. The Prime Minister will be leading an integrated defence, security and foreign policy review that will examine all aspects of our place in the world. The Foreign Secretary is spending today with his counterpart from our most important ally, the United States. The Government are committed to exceeding the 2% NATO defence spending target, and to spending 0.7% of GNP on development. Today, however, I will restrict my remarks to one aspect of the story, and that is trade.

Global Britain will be a beacon for free enterprise, free trade and free people across the world, and we will light that beacon championing the values for which the UK has long been known. From our abolition of the corn laws in 1846 to helping to found the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1948, the UK has long been a global leader in shaping the rules-based system, but from 1973 onwards that role has been increasingly curtailed. Tomorrow we will begin to reclaim that global leadership.

It is more than two centuries since our great political economist David Ricardo outlined the idea of comparative advantage, demonstrating how free and open trade benefits everyone, but it is an idea that still illuminates our country, and we have an opportunity to take that message out and across the world. Why is that important? First, it is the right thing to do. Believing in freedom is about more than economic theory. It is about believing in our freedom to set up a business, choose what we buy, and chart our own future. In its essence, free trade is about expanding that freedom across borders. It is the catalyst for sharing ideas, products, services and the innovations that improve all our lives. If we believe that people have the choice to access the best goods and services, we must also believe in free trade.

Secondly, that opportunity is important because Britain’s global leadership is sorely needed. Protectionist measures are on the rise across the world, increasing by three times the rate at the onset of the financial crisis. Brexit is the opportunity for this country to turn the tide, and to be a global champion of free, rules-based trade with the World Trade Organisation at its heart. That is not only morally right, but in the interests of our country. It is forecast that 90% of global growth will come from outside the EU. The world is bursting with opportunity—opportunity that Britain will seize with both hands.