Jacob Rees-Mogg has backed a radical policy for the UK to unilaterally recognise the regulations of other territories for the acceptance of imported goods onto the UK market.
The newly-appointed minister for Brexit opportunities said the proposal from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) should be welcomed by “anyone who believes in free trade”.
The UK is set to enforce a new set of product accreditation standards from 1 January 2023, after using the EU’s CE mark for the first three years post-Brexit.
Mutual recognition ending
Products would have to be assessed to new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) certifications instead of CE, as the EU does not want to continue mutual recognition in the long-term.
The IEA report said the UK should unilaterally keep the EU’s CE standards anyway and that this policy “should be adopted for all international trade where the rules of the exporting country meet the UK’s standards”.
Non-tariff barriers, such as complying with safety regulations and customs marks, can cost the equivalent of up to 20% tariffs on some goods, reports the Telegraph.
IEA report author Victoria Hewson said the removal of so-called non-tariff barriers was as economically important as tariffs, and that the “UK has an opportunity to lead the world with a radical trade policy of recognising regulations, without requiring reciprocity, starting with the EU”.
“This will transform the UK’s trade policy, ensuring goods which emulate our own standards are traded freely into the UK without unnecessary regulatory barriers,” she added.
Although the report acknowledges arguments against unilateral recognition, such as compromising the autonomy of UK regulators and sacrificing leverage, it claims the “gains from unilateral recognition would outweigh these potential disadvantages”.
Brexit opportunity remit
In his new role Rees-Mogg will be a full member of the Cabinet, where prime minister Boris Johnson wants him to have a “proper economic role”, according to the BBC.
The new minister kicked off his role with a call for readers of The Sun newspaper to nominate EU red tape they would like to see the end of.
“I implore you all to write to me with the regulations you want abolished – those which make life harder for small businesses, which shut out competition or simply increase the cost of operating,” he said.
The Local Government Chronicle reports that procurement could be an area where Rees-Mogg could look for a Brexit bonus with simpler processes, smaller contracts reserved for UK companies, and a greater opportunity for social enterprises.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that the PM risks angering his own MPs by restarting trade talks with China, which have been on ice since 2018.
It claims British government officials are in discussions about holding a meeting of the UK-China joint economic and trade committee (JETCO) this year. It has not met since 2018 due to Beijing actions in Hong Kong.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is also looking to restart a major trade summit, the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue, which has not been held since 2019.
However, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith criticised the government for approaching China and “begging them to trade”.
“I will not let it rest if we start now, amid all the evidence of genocide, brutality, crackdowns on peaceful protesters, and go traipsing along there as though nothing happened,” he said.
Oher senior figures, including former minister David Davies and chair of the foreign affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat, have also questioned the move.