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Reconnecting with the Commonwealth: the UK’s free trade opportunities


Reconnecting with the Commonwealth: the UK’s free trade opportunities

Reconnecting with the Commonwealth: the UK’s free trade opportunities
Photo credit: Free Enterprise Group

Brexit offers the UK an opportunity to pursue an independent, worldwide trade liberalisation and tariff elimination agenda – ushering in a return to its free trading principles.

A new paper from Conservative MP James Cleverly and Tim Hewish, with a foreword from former Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott, makes the case for prioritising free trade agreements with key Commonwealth nations.

The report marries up a commitment to free trade and support for the Commonwealth in British foreign policy that has been neglected in trading terms for decades. A new five-phase approach offers the most practical way to ensure that the UK utilises the Commonwealth for mutual benefit through free trading principles.

Foreword by The Hon Tony Abbott MP, 28th Prime Minister of Australia

Brexit means that Britain is back. The country that gave the world the English language, common law and the Mother of Parliaments is once more to seize its destiny as a global leader. This is an exciting time for Britain and an exhilarating one for the countless millions elsewhere who appreciate Britain’s unique contribution to western civilisation.

It’s good that Britain will no longer be constrained by the statism and bureaucracy of Brussels. It’s also good that the remaining members of the European Union will now have to rethink how much of their sovereignty they wish to surrender.

Brexit was not a vote against free trade because the EU has acted as a protectionist bloc against trade with outsiders. Brexit gives Britain the chance to do its own trade deals where consumers benefit from global goods and services and workers benefit from being able to compete more fairly in the markets of the wider world.

In the long run, free trade is in everyone’s interests. In the shorter run, of course, freer trade might mean that rich people in poor countries benefit more than poor people in rich ones. The best way to ensure that free trade has few losers, even in the short term, is to begin with much freer trade between likeminded countries with comparable standards of living. Free trade agreements with economically advanced Commonwealth countries are the obvious place for Britain to start.

Of course, no two countries are more like-minded than Britain and Australia. We have a language, a set of values and a large slab of history in common. Britons don’t feel like strangers in Australia and vice versa. If Britain is determined to make the most of Brexit – and everything about Prime Minister May shows this steely determination – why not strive for a one page FTA with Australia?

The movement of goods between our two countries should be absolutely free of tariffs or quotas. And each country’s product and service standards should be recognised in the other. If a car is fit to be sold in Britain, it’s fit to be sold in Australia. If a doctor is fit to practice in Australia, he or she is fit to practice in the UK. We don’t need a uniform market; we need a common one. We need what the European Economic Community of the 70s promised but failed to deliver. Provided people are coming to work rather than to take advantage of social security or health services, Australians should also be free to live in the UK and vice versa.

In a world where too many people are frightened of the future, Brexit has shown that a great country and a great people are prepared to “have a go”, as we Australians say. Britons can be sure that today’s Australians will rally to our friends with the enthusiasm for which our forebears were rightly famous.

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