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Spectator Briefing

The European Research Group’s Brexit letter, in full

21 February 2018

10:47 AM

21 February 2018

10:47 AM

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to thank you for your reassuring comments about Britain’s approach to the upcoming trade negotiations with the EU27, and to underline our support for both your Brexit leadership, and for the vision of your speech at Lancaster House a year ago.

We share your view that free trade lowers prices, creates jobs and economic growth, and that leaving the European Union will create opportunities for freer trade with many more countries around the world. We also agree with you that we can only grasp those opportunities if we can negotiate trade deals with as many other countries as possible, which we will be legally barred from doing if we remain inside the EU Customs Union and Single Market. Leaving them both isn’t a question of ideology, but practicality; we can’t strike those free trade deals if we don’t.

Which is why we are writing to reassure you of our continued, strong backing for the clear vision of an internationally-engaged, free-trading, global Britain which you laid out at Lancaster House. We also want to share some suggestions about how it could be achieved:

  • Taking control of our tariff schedules at the WTO. Your Government may need to change these significantly, and must have power to do so without signoff by the EU27.
  • Full regulatory autonomy. Your Government must have the ability to change British laws and rules once we leave, rather than being a ‘rule taker’ without any substantive say in whatever Brussels decides.
  • Brexit negotiations must dovetail into a global trade strategy. DIT should publish a global UK trade mandate, to show how Britain wants to approach its trade with the rest of the world, and provide a broader context for the EU trade talks.
  • The UK must be free to start its own trade negotiations immediately. Given the lead times for many trade deals, this is essential to minimise gaps between Britain leaving the EU and signing new deals with other countries. So, for example, your Ministers may need to discuss the division of the EU’s Tariff Rate Quotas with the UK’s non-EU trading partners bilaterally, and must have power to do so directly rather than only through a UK/EU agreement.
  • The UK should negotiate as an equal partner. Ministers may not want or be able to accept the EU’s timing and mandates as fixed, and should be able to set out any alternative terms including, for example, building an agreement based on our World Trade Organisation membership instead.
  • Any ‘implementation period’ should be based on WTO principles. Any implementation period must not restrain the UK from negotiating or signing other trade agreements. Legally, that means it should be an interim period in contemplation of a free trade agreement, compliant with GATT Article 24 (7) b.

Famously you said that you wanted to make a success of Brexit. We wholeheartedly agree with you. Only a Conservative Government led by you can deliver these opportunities for our country.

Yours sincerely,

John Penrose MP on behalf of the ERG officers.

Full list of signatories:

Lucy Allan; Sir David Amess; Richard Bacon; Kemi Badenoch; Sir Henry Bellingham; Bob Blackman; Peter Bone; Andrew Bridgen; Sir Bill Cash; Simon Clarke; Colin Clark; David TC Davies; Philip Davies; Leo Docherty; Nadine Dorries; Richard Drax; James Duddridge; Charlie Elphicke; Nigel Evans; Mark Francois; Marcus Fysh; James Gray; Chris Green; John Hayes; Gordon Henderson; Philip Hollobone; Adam Holloway; Eddie Hughes; Alister Jack; Bernard Jenkin; Andrea Jenkyns; David Jones; Daniel Kawczynski; Stephen Kerr; Pauline Latham; Andrew Lewer; Dr Julian Lewis; Julia Lopez; Jack Lopresti; Tim Loughton; Rachael Maclean; Craig Mackinlay; Nigel Mills; Anne-Marie Morris; Matthew Offord; Priti Patel; Owen Paterson; John Penrose; John Redwood; Andrew Rosindell; Jacob Rees-Mogg; Lee Rowley; Henry Smith; Iain Duncan Smith; Bob Stewart; Sir Desmond Swayne; Derek Thomas; Michael Tomlinson; Anne-Marie Trevelyan; martin Vickers; Bill Wiggin; William Wragg


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