Brit MPs tell DC audience to oppose Brexit agreement
Two British conservative members of Parliament and a think-tank director traveled to Washington recently to promote a U.S.-United Kingdom free trade agreement, but ended up telling the Washington International Trade Association that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit proposal would mean no agreement with the United States.
In opening remarks on Nov. 16, David Davis, a member of Parliament in the House of Commons who is the former secretary of state for exiting the European Union, said he hoped that the United Kingdom and the United States would forge a free trade agreement based on “competition on the merits.”
But Davis also said that May’s proposal, which Parliament must still approve, puts the UK government “on the verge of committing the UK to a permanent customs union backstop from which it cannot escape. The backstop would lock the UK into a relationship with the EU, from which the UK could not escape without the permission of the EU.”
Davis said he believes the UK could achieve a deal with the U.S. like the ones that the European Union has achieved with Japan and Canada, but with additions.
During a panel discussion, Shanker Singham, the director of the International Trade and Competition Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a UK free-market think tank, added, “The withdrawal agreement would take trade agreements off the table. This is a bad deal for the U.S. because your ally has been taken off the field.”
Owen Patterson, also a member of the House of Commons, and former secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that there is “no chance of doing a trade deal with a country that does not control its tariffs.”
Patterson said that the issue of transporting animals between the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, and the European countries can be addressed with the use of technology rather than border inspection because animals already have ear tags.
Noting opposition to genetic modification of crops and other modern agricultural ideas, Davis said, “This crazy hostility to technology is forcing the EU behind the rest of the world.”
Davis also noted that a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom would allow the two countries to take a joint stand in dealing with China.
The Brits’ appearance at the WITA event took place the same day that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative filed a Federal Register notice calling for comments on a proposed U.S.-UK free trade agreement.
In response, UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox tweeted, “We welcome the steps that the U.S. Trade Representative is taking so we can begin negotiations for a new free trade agreement once we leave the EU. We’re analysing our public consultation responses and we’ll set out our approach before negotiations begin.”
On Sunday, European Union leaders agreed to May’s Brexit plan, but analysts said that she faces a bigger challenge in convincing the British Parliament to vote for it.