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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Britain promises no 'Mad Max style' deregulation after Brexit

The UK Brexit secretary David Davis vowed not to loosen rules in order to gain a competitive advantage after the country leaves the European Union

Brexit secretary David Davis Davis told business leaders in Austria that instead of loosening rules, the UK will engage in a "race to the top" in standards after the country leaves the EU. AFP / ROLAND SCHLAGER
Brexit secretary David Davis Davis told business leaders in Austria that instead of loosening rules, the UK will engage in a "race to the top" in standards after the country leaves the EU. AFP / ROLAND SCHLAGER

Fears that post-Brexit Britain will be "plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction" are unfounded, David Davis said on Tuesday.

In a speech to business leaders in Vienna, the Brexit secretary insisted the UK is not planning to slash regulations and standards in order to boost its economy after leaving the European Union.

Rejecting ideas of a “race to the bottom” in areas such as workers’ rights and environmental regulations, he said the UK wanted instead to lead a "global race to the top" in standards.

He also insisted that the British government is committed to continuing the “mutual recognition” of regulations after the UK leaves the EU.

"This will be a crucial part of ensuring our future economic partnership is as open, and trade remains as frictionless as possible," Mr Davis said.

The speech is the latest in a series from senior cabinet ministers seeking to reassure the EU that Britain won’t try to undermine the union with a bonfire of regulation after Brexit.

But his comments were immediately criticised, with opposition MP Chuka Umunna saying that some of Mr Davis' fellow ministers do want a slipping of standards.

Last week British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said it would be "absurd" if Britain left the bloc but did not "take advantage of the economic freedom it will bring".

"The best way to protect and enhance the high standards that exist in this country is to stay in the single market and the customs union", which British Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain will leave, Mr Umunna said, in a statement issued by pro-EU campaign group Open Britain.

Britain wants to retain close economic ties with the EU, while also becoming free to strike new trade deals around the world. However, EU leaders have repeatedly warned that Britain can't have both freedom from the bloc's regulations and frictionless trade.

Mr Davis’ reference to the Mad Max film series, which shows a lawless society teetering upon the brink of collapse, was a thinly veiled rebuke to his critics who have warned against cutting red tape after Brexit.

Arch-Brexiteers such as Mr Davis, Mr Johnson and international trade secretary Liam Fox have spoken enthusiastically about the chance to sweep aside thousands of EU regulations after Brexit, freeing the country from what they see as the shackles of Brussels.

But the Labour party has warned against turning the UK into a Singapore-style low-tax, low-regulation haven after Brexit, arguing this would be “incredibly damaging” to the economy.

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Mr Davis hit back at his critics on Tuesday, pledging that Britain will "continue our track record of meeting high standards" once outside the EU.

“I know that for one reason or another there are some people who have sought to question that these really are our intentions,” he said.

"With Britain plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction. These fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing, not history, not intention, nor interest.

"But while I profoundly disagree with them - it does remind us all that we must provide reassurance."

Britain voted in a June 2016 referendum to leave the EU and is due to do so on March 29, 2019.

Following an interim deal in December on issues including how much money Britain will have to pay, talks have now moved onto a transition period to help prepare for the split.

Once these wrap up negotiations can then begin on Britain's future relationship with the bloc.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that there remain "substantial" disagreements between the two sides.

However, Mr Davis struck a more optimistic tone on Tuesday, suggesting a Brexit deal by the end of 2018 was "well on the cards".

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