Wallonia CETA

LONDON — Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, said that people are becoming too “obsessive” about Britain’s ability to sign free trade agreements with other nations post-Brexit. 

Emphasis should instead be placed on “resetting” the country’s trading relationship with the world, Hands said at the Bloomberg UK Investment Day on Monday.

“Commentators get a bit obsessive about free trade agreements,” Hands said.

Hands — the minister serving under Secretary of State for International Trade and arch-Brexiteer Liam Fox — argued that those solely focusing on Britain doing individual deals with major economies like India are “missing the point,” and that people should focus on “resetting and reviving” the UK’s trading relationship with the world.

Maintaining Britain’s status as a long-running champion of free trade should take precedence, Hands said.

“The UK will gladly lead the charge to a freer system” of global trade, Hands said, calling the UK “the world’s pre-eminent voice for global free trade” over the course of history.

The rise of anti-globalist sentiment comes at a time when global growth is persistently weak, and global trade is shrinking. 

With growing criticisms of deals like TTIP and TPP, as well as the near collapse of the EU-Canada deal because of the Belgian region of Wallonia, things have worsened significantly in the last 12 months.

The government’s focus on strengthening its position as a “global Britain,” Hands argued, means that Britain will need a bespoke deal with the European Union as it begins the process of Brexit, saying that the country needs to look away from “Norwegian, Canadian or Turkish style models, and incessant sound bites about the various textures of Brexit.”

During his speech, Hands borrowed a favourite phrase of Prime Minister Theresa May, saying three times that the Conservative government is determined to make a “success of Brexit.”

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