A cross-party group of MPs and business leaders has called on the UK government to forge closer ties with the EU and to establish an independent agency to review the performance of the Department for Business and Trade (DBT).
The UK Trade and Business Commission published its new trade policy platform, ‘Trading our way to prosperity: A blueprint for policymakers’, on the 1 June .
It includes 114 recommendations that were informed by what it describes as “the largest post-Brexit consultation on trade, involving 80 hours of testimony from 234 expert witnesses”.
The proposals are relevant to all sectors and the commission has highlighted four key recommendations:
- An ‘OBR for trade’ – establish an independent government agency to act for DBT as the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) does for the Treasury, to ensure the government “can no longer mark its own homework on trade”
- EU alignment – maintain regulatory alignment with the EU, where beneficial, through a new ‘UK-EU Regulatory Cooperation Council’
- Ease labour shortages – reform temporary and business visas, establish a new Youth Mobility Visa scheme with the EU and increase flexibility for the creative industries and seasonal workers
- Parliamentary scrutiny – subject all new trade agreements that are signed by the government to full parliamentary scrutiny, and ensure approval is required in both Houses of Parliament before ratification
Closer ties with Europe
The policy platform has been released alongside new polling, commissioned by Best for Britain, which suggests widespread support for its proposals.
The polling of 10,102 people by Focaldata shows:
- 53% support closer ties with the EU
- 51% favour increasing availability for UK visas in sectors affected by labour shortages
- 51% believe the UK would be better off with regulatory alignment with its largest trade partners
- 35% prefer regulatory divergence
Hilary Benn MP, a co-convenor of the commission, said: “Growth is a priority for both the Government and opposition, and this report provides a menu of things that could be done to help our firms to grow and prosper. It’s now time to listen to business about what needs to be done to fix the problems that we can all clearly see.”