MPs and business leaders push for creation of an 'OBR for trade' and closer ties with the EU

Thu 1 Jun 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Puzzle map of EU with UK removed

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’, today (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 director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), Marco Forgione, was among those to give evidence to the commission.

Key recommendations

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.”

Trade Unlocked 2023

The policy platform will be discussed at Trade Unlocked 2023, a major new conference at the NEC in Birmingham on Tuesday 20 June, where businesses of all sizes, from all parts of the economy, will meet with the goal of influencing election manifestos on trade policy before the next election.

The interactive conference will draw on the expertise and experience of all delegates to find solutions to the challenges of the current trading environment. In particular, they want to hear from businesses who export.

The event has been organised in partnership with the British Chambers of Commerce, the International Chambers of Commerce and other high-profile business leaders with policy support from the UK Trade and Business Commission.

IOE&IT members can register for free here using the special code: TU23Export

New Parliamentary inquiry

The new policy platform also coincides with the announcement of a new Parliamentary inquiry into exports from the UK.

The ‘Export-led growth’ inquiry, launched by the Business and Trade Committee in Parliament, seeks to examine “how well equipped the UK is to achieve the ambitious target set by the government for growth in UK exports by the end of the current decade. It will also consider how the UK can take advantage of export opportunities in emerging technologies and critical international supply chains.”

The deadline to submit a response to the inquiry is 14 July. The IOE&IT will be submitting its own response on behalf of its members and the wider international trade community in the UK.

More details can be found here.