MP's column: Trade post Brexit

When the Prime Minister took office she created the Department for International Trade to strengthen and augment the United Kingdom's trading links with the rest of the world.

Each government department is scrutinised by a select committee of the House of Commons and I am privileged to have been chosen by my fellow MPs to sit on the International Trade Select Committee.

We recently released a report looking into what Britain’s trading options will be like when Brexit comes. We interviewed a wide range of people from the director general of the World Trade Organisation to former UK trade ministers to experts with strong experience in this field. The overall impression I gathered was that our country will have a lot of opportunities once we end our membership of the European Union.

From the many viewpoints we heard and the evidence we looked at, it’s clear that the Government are laying strong foundations for our future trading arrangements both with the EU and with the rest of the world.

I particularly welcome the report’s call for a Government White Paper on UK membership of the European Free Trade Association, which we were part of before we joined the EU.

There are a lot of people, mostly in the Remain camp, who have been talking Britain down and saying it will be impossible for us to get a good trade deal out of the rest of the EU. This report makes very clear that the EU and the UK have a mutual interest in agreeing a trade deal before Brexit day comes.

Right now our strongest trade links with EU states are with Germany and the Netherlands. These are two core EU countries who will be leading the drive for an agreement.

As Brexit day comes closer and closer, hundreds of interest groups that trade with the UK will be phoning up their own national governments and pressuring them to make sure we can all carry on with business as usual.

The Government has sound plans, but we do seek greater clarity on what our customs arrangement with the EU will be.

The Prime Minister has made clear we are leaving the Single Market, we will be outside the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and our continued membership of the WTO is a good basis for concluding Free Trade Agreements with the rest of the world.

The way forward is not yet certain, but the Government is plotting a path that is ambitious, achievable, and advantageous for the United Kingdom.

Here in the Commons I have also been working to protect parents’ rights to have their children educated in a way that reflects their most deeply held beliefs.

Freedom of conscience is arguably the most important freedom of all, and so I was disappointed the Government announced it is against the parental right of withdrawal from the new ‘relationships education’.

We are putting up a fight, though, to defend the family and the freedom of people to live according to their principles.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Gainsborough Constituency