Theresa May is putting the British economy in peril.
Many Asian Voice readers will be staggered by the seeming incompetence of the Government in starting a debate, promising a vote and cancelling plans at the last minute with a humiliating statement in Parliament. I was one of more than 135 MPs due to speak in the House on the day the vote was cancelled – an unprecedented move that gives the distinct impression of a Government being in office but not in power.
But as people look more at the detail of Brexit and what it means, people are rightly asking if they are being told what we will lose as much as what we might gain.
Research I have undertaken in Parliament shows more than £150bn of UK trade is at risk because of the government’s failure to confirm what will happen to Britain’s participation in the EU’s free trade agreements after Brexit.
The new Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, told me in our Brexit Select Committee hearing last week that he could not guarantee that the UK would still benefit from the free trade agreements the EU has with 70 other countries once we leave – agreements that we have helped negotiate. These trade deals stretch around the globe, from Trinidad and Tobago, to South Korea and Mauritius, and allow the UK to have a truly global reach. Trade with these countries account for more than 10 per cent of both our exports and imports.
In no longer having access to these trade deals, we could be left at the diplomatic starting line, 46 years behind where we were as part of the EU and at a distinct disadvantage when we start again to negotiate a trade deal on our own as a country of 60m rather than a continent of 500million. The British Chamber of Commerce have also raised their concern. That’s why along with over 40 colleagues I have written to the Brexit Secretary of State to urge the Government to make a statement on the status of trade agreements during the transition period and afterwards.
This is not only significant for UK businesses across the country but also for foreign companies, including many Indian businesses, investing in the UK. A business registered in the UK, regardless of where the holding company is registered, would be governed by EU trade and customs rules and be able to trade with any of those 70 third countries under an EU FTA.
The UK exports 1.33m cars per year, and over 12% of these exports are to countries covered by the EU FTAs. Jaguar Land Rover is the largest manufacturer of cars in the UK, producing over 500,000 each year. However the uncertainty over our participation in these trade agreements could make foreign investment into the UK less attractive if there is a risk of tariffs levied on our exports.