I am a longstanding supporter of British industry and I am committed to helping businesses small and large to increase their trade both in a domestic capacity, and importantly, with overseas markets. Much of my work in the European Parliament has been dedicated to making trade easier by removing unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. When our businesses grow, they can offer more job opportunities and help deliver a more prosperous economy. With this prosperous economy, we can better afford our other needs for a strong and caring society.
Over the past forty years, politicians across the world have worked to tear down barriers to trade but increasingly we now risk tipping into a new era fuelled by protectionism. Public support for trade agreements will not be regained if politicians only focus on the small minority of elite consumers who shop across borders: after all, the vast majority of consumers consume in their local area.
Increasing trade also helps to reduce prices for consumers and brings greater choice. Today about 50 percent of the goods we import into the UK come from elsewhere in the EU Single Market and the majority of these are sold to consumers by British based retailers. If we have to rely on a World Trade Organisation backstop for these products, then British consumers will face expensive tariffs especially on food products, and negotiating a new free-trade agreement with Brussels to rectify this could take many years of uncertainty.
It is clear that there will need to be a new relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU's Single Market, but decisions on exactly what form of agreement that should be, needs to consider the viewpoint of the ordinary consumer.
Enabling trade is not just about reducing taxes and tariffs. In Europe, there are a plethora of networks for practical co-operation which have been built up over the past forty years. When we are preparing for the negotiations ahead, we should look at these networks and the practical benefits they bring to many everyday lives and consider which ones we might wish to maintain.
Often the biggest non-tariff barriers to trade are different product regulations which can cause costly extra compliance requirements. As an MEP I have worked to reduce this duplication by having common rules for the common market. I recently led a delegation to Geneva to meet with representatives of the WTO and UN. Whilst I was there, I looked at their work on consumer standards, especially on safer cars across the world.
I was struck by how much the negotiations on Free Trade Agreements at WTO level, can become rapidly dominated by traditional agricultural issues. Whereas in my time working on EU/UK trade I have been focusing more on trade in services, high end industrial products, digital products and sharing knowledge on R&D. All of these are crucial to the UK economy. You can find out more about my trip to the UN here.
Some proposed future trade deals such as the EU/US trade agreement (TTIP) have raised public concern. Much of this concern is based on myths. You can read more about this here.