Brexit secretary David Davis has made a major speech in Vienna today.
After pleasantries, he agreed that since the referendum, much thought, throughout Europe, had gone into what Britain’s relationship with the European Union really meant and whether Britain was going to be the same country it had been in the past – dependable, open, fair, a bastion of Parliamentary democracy and a defender of liberty, and the rule of law.
“Well, to cut to the chase — we are,” he said. “We were before we joined the European Union, we are while we are members, and we will be after we have left.”
He told his audience that he would explain not just why the UK and EU must continue to work together as the closest of partners and friends, but also how this should be done.
He declared that rather than the UK being on a ‘race to the bottom’, as some had suggested, we are on a ‘race to the top’ and added that we will adhere to the principle of fair competition.
He spoke of the referendum. “It was a straightforward choice: a decision to move away from pooled sovereignty in favour of more control of our own destiny,” he said, adding that the choices about Britain’s future are taken by Britain’s parliament, directly accountable to the British people, not to undermine Europe
He quoted French president Emmanuel Macron: “If we do not define a standard for international cooperation, we will never manage to convince the middle and working classes, that globalization is good for them,” and said he ‘could not agree more’.
He spoke of the innovations in technology, particularly driverless vehicles and drones and said these must be the subject of aviation safety. The government would be addressing this.
He spoke of battling climate change with international collaboration, such as the Paris Climate Agreement, and added that the UK has high standards in many fields, including protecting shoppers from shoddy goods, ensuring patients are safe and have access to the best public health protection and holding businesses to high standards. “We will continue our track record of meeting high standards, after we leave the European Union,” he said.
He spoke about his desire for ongoing trade with the EU. “The future trade talks will be a negotiation like no other,” he said. “We start from a position of total alignment, with unprecedented experience in working with one another’s regulators and institutions. The agreement we strike will not be about how to build convergence, but what we do when one of us chooses to make changes to our rules. Neither side should put up unnecessary barriers during this process.”
He said this would be in the interest of both sides “and because of that, I am certain that we can get this right, but of course, it will not be easy.”
He mention three principles which would illustrate the concept of fairness. “First, fair competition means that it cannot be right that a company situated in the European Union would be able to be heavily subsidised by the state but still have unfettered access to the United Kingdom market. And vice versa.
“Second, fairness means protecting consumers against anti-competitive behaviour, and third, fairness means operating with a degree of mutual respect, respect in our desire to reach a deal that recognises the distinct legal order of each side and in our determination to carry out the sovereign decision of the British people.”
Concluding, Mr Davis said he recognised that there would be a change in the way companies do business, but these goals would not change the kind of country Britain is.
Read the full speech here