This month I have been privileged to speak with business people on both sides of the Atlantic. Their common refrain is that, even though negotiations have now begun on the UK’s exit from the EU, there is still a large amount of uncertainty about the UK Government’s vision for Brexit. I am pleased to say, however, that engagement with business has been very positive recently, with the IoD numbering among a select group of business bodies to be invited to join the Prime Minister; the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Business for a meeting at No. 10 Downing Street, to discuss what companies want from Brexit.
As I wrote in The Telegraph earlier this month, when we look to the future beyond Brexit, the UK has a strong interest in increasing our trade ties with the world outside of Europe, particularly with my native country. As I am proud to possess both American and British citizenship, this issue is close to my heart. The UK is the largest European market for US exports, and the second largest exporter to the US after Germany. Since the end of the Second World War, our countries have led the world in pushing for more open, global trade and lower tariffs. Post-Brexit, I very much hope this continues.
In the last month we, at the IoD, have been active in our attempts to encourage this relationship. From a delegation of visiting Texans, from the great City of Houston meeting with our Policy team and IoD members at 116 Pall Mall, to an initiative we have begun in collaboration with the Center for Strategic International Studies and Chatham House looking at the future of the US/UK digital trade agenda, we are spreading the message of the importance of strengthening the ‘special relationship’ even further.
Business rarely waits for new trade deals in order to break into new overseas markets. In some areas, UK and US regulators could and should already be talking about issues that do not need to be in a formal trade agreement. At the IoD we do not see free trade agreements as being the sole metric through which the success of UK trade and the new Department for International Trade should be gauged. It is important to adopt a twin-track approach – identifying areas for furthering trade and cooperation in the short term, and building to where an eventual trade agreement can be signed in the longer term.
I hope the work we are doing reminds and heartens business that it is not just the politicians in the UK and Brussels that will determine the fate of this country over the years to come. The hard work, entrepreneurialism and courage of our businesses will play an key role in ensuring this country remains economically vibrant. The British people are robust and very resilient and I am sure we will prevail.
In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer holidays and briefly, at least, can take a pause from our puzzling politics.