George Hollingbery MP: The UK should support the EU’s free trade agenda – even after we leave
A liberalised, open and rules-based global trading system will bring home benefits for us all, says Minister of State for Trade Policy, George Hollingbery MP.
In a debate in the House of Commons this week, I urged my fellow MPs to support the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
Some may ask why this government - a government that has made its determination to make our own future trade agreements very clear - would want to support an EU trade deal.
The answer is simple: because this agreement is one we can build on after we leave the EU. By removing the final existing trade tariffs between the UK and Singapore, this deal is expected to be worth £95 million a year to the UK economy by making it both cheaper and easier for British business to export to Singapore, a fantastic basis for the UK to work from after Brexit.
On our departure from the EU, the Government will seek to transition the FTA into UK law through a straightforward, technical process which will help provide continuity to businesses and consumers in both countries.
UK exports to Singapore are already rising fast - in the year to 2017, UK exports to Singapore rose 24% to £9.6bn, and in 2016 Singapore invested £18.2bn into the UK, an 18.6% increase on the previous year.
Once the UK has left the EU, we will have full independence to work with Singapore to reduce barriers to trade between our countries even further and ensure our high standards are maintained.
Together, we will also continue to develop our future approach to investment, working with our Singaporean partners to ensure certainty for UK and Singaporean investors.
The warmth of the reception shown to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on his recent visit to Singapore demonstrates the country’s continued commitment to a positive trading relationship with the UK.
And earlier this year, we announced that we will consider potential accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), of which Singapore is a valued member. A 14-week consultation on this proposal is open now for the public’s views.
My colleague and experienced trade negotiator, Crawford Falconer, has been clear that there’s great opportunity for the UK in the Asia Pacific region, and that this should be a key focus of our efforts as we leave the EU.
UK support for such agreements, wherever they are negotiated, sends the world a clear message that we remain committed to developing global free trade, which has the power to drive growth, jobs and opportunities both at home and overseas.
That is why we have been a keen advocate of the Singapore FTA within the EU and will continue to be one of the most vocal supporters of the EU’s ambitious free trade agenda, even after we leave in March next year. Because a liberalised, open and rules-based global trading system will bring home benefits for us all.
George Hollingbery is Conservative MP for Meon Valley and Minister of State for Trade Policy