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Global Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 3:32 pm, 3rd February 2020

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on global Britain, following the Prime Minister’s written ministerial statement today.

Last Friday, 31 January, the United Kingdom left the European Union. Before then, for three long years, we had debated the European question. Members on both sides of the Chamber were weary and people out in the country were tired of the wrangling, so I think there is relief on all sides that the question is now settled. I know that the point of departure is difficult for many people—decent people who love their country and who did not want us to leave—so it is incumbent on this Government to show that leaving marks not an ending, but a bold new beginning. We take that responsibility very seriously.

When we ratified the withdrawal agreement, this Government and this Parliament finally delivered on the promise made to the British people over three years ago. We did that as a matter of democratic principle. We did it to keep faith with and to retain the confidence of the British people. In doing so, we sent a strong signal to the EU and to the world about our ambition and our resolve as we chart the course ahead. As one United Kingdom, we are now free to determine our own future as masters of our own destiny. We are free to reinvigorate our ties with old allies. We are free to forge new friendships around the world. As we seek those new relationships with friends and partners, the interests of the British people and the integrity of our Union will be the foundation stone of everything we do.

The Prime Minister’s speech this morning and the written statement to the House start us on that journey by setting out the Government’s proposed approach to our relations with the EU in 2020. The most important thing about 2020 is that having left the EU at the start of it, at the end of it we will fully and with absolute certainty regain complete economic and political independence. That is when the transition period ends, and it will not be extended.

We will have a new relationship with the EU, as sovereign equals, based on free trade. Between now and the end of the year, we will work with the EU to try to negotiate a free trade agreement, drawing on other recent agreements, such as the one between the EU and Canada. That should be the core of our future relationship. We will look to reach agreements on other priorities, including fisheries, internal security and aviation. These will be backed up by governance and dispute settlement arrangements appropriate to a free trade agreement, with no alignment and no role for the European Court of Justice, respectful of our democratic prerogatives. We hope we can agree. If we cannot, we will of course carry on trading with the EU in the same way as Australia and many other countries around the world—as a free country, collaborating where we can, and setting our own rules that work for us.

Of course, the EU is not our only trading partner, and at the same time we will be seeking to get agreements with other great trading countries around the world. We are delighted—in the words of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when he was here last week—that the UK is now front of the queue for a free trade deal with the United States. We expect to open negotiations with the US and other countries very soon—in that way we can broaden our horizons to embrace the huge opportunities in the rising economies of the future, where 90% of the world’s growth comes from. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade will set out more detail in a written statement later this week, and I will visit Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia over the next two weeks.

At such a crossroads moment, it is fitting and timely that this Government will engage in a thorough and careful review of the United Kingdom’s place in the world, including through the integrated security, defence and foreign policy review. This review is an opportunity for us to reassess the ways we engage on the global stage—including in defence, diplomacy and our approach to development—to ensure we have a fully integrated approach, because now is the moment to look ahead with confidence and ambition, to signal to our future partners the outward-facing, trailblazing country that we intend to be.

We have a vision of a truly global Britain. The first pillar of our global Britain strategy will be to continue to prove that we are the best possible allies, partners and friends with our European neighbours. We are working closely with our European partners to find a political solution in Libya. We will continue to stand together to hold Iran to account for its systemic non-compliance with the joint comprehensive plan of action, the nuclear deal. We will work together to tackle shared threats and global challenges, whether it is Russia’s aggression, terrorism, rising authoritarianism, climate change or, indeed, health crises such as the coronavirus. It was our honour on Friday to bring home 29 other Europeans on the UK-commissioned charter flight from Wuhan, along with the 97 Britons, because we will always look out for our European friends, with whom we share so many interests. I am grateful to the Spanish Foreign Minister for Spain’s help in co-ordinating that effort and to the French Foreign Minister in relation to the flight that came home on Sunday.[This section has been corrected on 5 February 2020, column 6MC — read correction]

The next pillar of our global Britain strategy will be the UK’s role as an energetic champion of free and open trade—to boost small businesses, cut the cost of living, create the well-paid jobs of the future for the next generation, provide more consumer choice and to raise UK productivity, which is so important for our “levelling up” agenda right across the country. The pursuit of shared prosperity has an essential role to play in our approach to development policy, too. As we maintain our 0.7% commitment on development spending, we need to find better ways of making sure it contributes to long-term and sustainable economic growth. As we demonstrated at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, we believe the UK has a unique and competitive offer to tackle poverty and help poorer nations benefit in a way that benefits us all over the longer term.

Finally, the third pillar of our global Britain will be the UK as an even stronger force for good in the world. Our guiding lights will remain the values of democracy, human rights and the international rule of law, and we will lead on global issues that really matter, such as climate change. That is why this year we will host the UN climate change summit, COP26, in Glasgow. We will lead by example and rise to the challenge by harnessing all the British talents in tech, innovation and entrepreneurialism to find creative solutions to global problems. We will champion the great causes of our day, as through our campaign to give every girl access to 12 years of quality education. We will defend journalists from attack, stand up for freedom of religion and conscience, and develop our own independent sanctions regime to tackle human rights abusers head on. Together, united, we can show that this country is so much bigger than the sum of its parts.