UK Brexit Minister David Davis' speech in Vienna sought to reassure EU leaders. Brexit would not lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom and Britain would not be plunged into a Mad Max-style world, he said.
UK ministers are making a series of speeches over a period of weeks as they lay out government plans for Britain's departure from the European Union (EU) currently being negotiated with a team headed by European Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.
In notes released ahead of Davis' speech in Vienna on Tuesday, the minister dismissed fears of a post-Brexit future akin to that depicted in the post-apocalyptic film franchise "Mad Max." He claimed that opponents of Brexit had touted this as a possibility.
"They fear that Brexit could lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom, with Britain plunged into a 'Mad Max'-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction," said Davis. "These fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing, not history, not intention, nor interest," the speech text continues. "But, while I profoundly disagree with them, it does remind us all that we must provide reassurance."
Davis is the 69-year-old minister heading the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) made up of 600 civil servants which was set up after the 2016 referendum.
Davis said Britain would continue to maintain the highest global standards. A commitment to workers' rights, financial regulation, animal welfare and the environment was also given.
High standards in view
"The certainty that Britain's plan, its blueprint for life outside of Europe, is a race to the top in global standards, not a regression from the high standards we have now, can provide the basis of the trust," Davis said.
Britain is also seeking the mutual recognition of British and European regulators: "A crucial part of any such agreement is the ability for both sides to trust each other's regulations and the institutions that enforce them," Davis' text states.
Theresa May made a keynote speech at the Munich Security Conference at the weekend after meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. Questions have arisen over the nature of Britain's plans with Merkel saying she was "curious" about, but "not frustrated" with the British government's slow progress in presenting its plan for the future. Merkel also said that the bloc's remaining 27 members would be left with a "very challenging" budget hole to fill.
Boris Johnson insists UK can leave customs union and have no hard border in Ireland
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he foresaw the UK leaving the EU customs union while maintaining frictionless trade with the bloc.
Responding to a question in parliament about why he neglected to mention the Irish border issue in his major speech last week, Johnson said the government would ensure there would be no hard border in Ireland after Brexit, despite plans to leave the single market and customs union.
"There is no reason whatsoever why we should not be able to exit both the customs union and the single market, whilst maintaining frictionless trade not only north-south in Northern Ireland, but with the rest of continental Europe as well," Johnson said. "That is exactly what this government will be spelling out in the course of the coming negotiations."
Johnson's comments directly contradicted EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's position.
During a visit to London earlier this month, Barnier once again stressed the EU's position that Britain would have to choose between frictionless trade and leaving the customs union. "Without a customs union ... barriers to trade and goods and services are unavoidable," he said.
Other government ministers planned speeches on Tuesday: environment, food and rural affairs minister Michael Gove is to make new pledges on farming and animal welfare in Birmingham at the National Farmers’ Union annual conference. International trade minister Liam Fox addresses manufacturers in London where he is expected to promise to fight any new barriers to trade with Europe.
UK opposition leader, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn is also making a speech on Tuesday. In notes released ahead of his presentation, Corbyn is expected to say: "Business needs clarity, and with two out of six of the government's 'road to Brexit' speeches already delivered, the Tories' approach to Brexit is, if anything, less clear."
The Labour position on Britain after Brexit has yet to be announced.
dm, jm/rc (Reuters)