LONDON — The U.K. will not undercut EU businesses on workers’ rights and environmental protections, David Davis will pledge on Tuesday.
Speaking to an audience of business leaders in Vienna, the U.K. Brexit secretary will insist that Brexit will not “lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom,” committing the country to “meeting high standards after we leave the EU.” But he will call for a post-Brexit trade deal in which British regulations are recognized by Brussels as comparable to its own.
Davis, who is again touring European countries this week as part of a diplomatic push ahead of next month’s European Council meeting, will call for a system of mutual recognition of standards and continued “close, even-handed cooperation” between regulatory authorities in the U.K. and the EU, to underpin a post-Brexit trade deal.
Mutually high standards will guarantee “fair competition,” a principle of the European economy that the U.K. will continue to “work hard to spread,” Davis is expected to say, according to pre-briefed extracts from his speech in Vienna.
“We will continue our track record of meeting high standards after we leave the European Union,” Davis will say, “Now, I know that for one reason or another there are some people who have sought to question that these really are our intentions.”
“They fear that Brexit could lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom, 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.”
U.K. ministers have long insisted that Brexit will not mean a downgrading of standards in areas like financial services regulation, workers’ rights and environmental protections, as it seeks to reassure the EU that even as it leaves the single market, it should still qualify for close trade ties with the bloc.
Davis will insist that the U.K.’s “race to the top … can provide the basis of the trust that means that Britain’s regulators and institutions can continue to be recognized.”
His speech is the third in a series by ministers — dubbed by the government “The Road to Brexit” — which will culminate in a major speech by Prime Minister Theresa May in which she is expected to outline in more explicit detail what kind of future economic relationship the U.K. wants.
Critics of the government’s stance said Davis’ speech was a continuation of the U.K.’s “cake and eat it” approach to the Brexit negotiations.
“David Davis might as well be making the case for staying in the EU,” said Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable. “He appears to be acknowledging the great achievements of the single market — a British idea introduced by a British government — yet the Conservatives want to leave that and the customs union.”
“They want all the advantages of staying in the single market and customs union while leaving it, which is clearly an absurd negotiating position,” Cable added.
However, Josh Hardie, deputy director genera, of the Confederation of British Industry, said businesses would “welcome the Secretary of State’s recognition of the benefits of frictionless trade, and the U.K. Government’s commitment to maintaining high standards to keep people and products safe.”
“Evidence, not ideology should guide the U.K.’s thinking on a close future relationship with the EU,” he added.