The South West will play a pivotal role in shaping 21st century trade in the UK, Dr Liam Fox will tell an audience at Portbury Royal Docks near Bristol today.
In 2016, service exports from the South West increased by 10.1% to £11.3bn and 2017 figures show goods exports increased by 12.3% to £20.4bn.
Dr Fox will use today’s speech to call on MPs across the South West to look beyond current divisions and deliver Brexit.
He is expected to say: “Now is the time to raise our sights and acknowledge that there is a world beyond Europe, and a time Beyond Brexit.
“The Government has made clear that we want to take a balanced approach to the question of our future trading prospects. We need to maximise our access to the EU market but without damaging our potential to benefit from emerging trade opportunities in other parts of the world.
“Even before we get to new trade opportunities afforded by new trade agreements there are still considerable export opportunities for British businesses to exploit in existing markets. We still have ground to make up on our international competitors in many of these countries abroad. If we want Britain to become a global exporting superpower, we have to unlock our considerable potential.”
On Britain’s role in shaping the future of trade, he is expected to say: “A wholesale revolution in the patterns of trade has already arrived. The tectonic plates of global commerce are shifting under our feet. Our future FTAs are hugely important – not least because they are strategic as well as economic tools – but in the long run, it is not what we do unilaterally, or even bilaterally, that will make the biggest difference.
“Instead, it is working to update and improve the rules-based international system that governs global trade. How the multilateral trading environment develops will almost certainly be the most crucial determinant of the degree of trade liberalisation that will occur and consequently the scale of future opportunities.
“This is an area in which the UK will play a pivotal role. The world’s fifth-largest economy taking its seat at the WTO, as a powerful and unabashed defender of free trade, will be a key moment for the United Kingdom. It is one of the most important, if seldom mentioned, aspects of Brexit.”
In a call to fellow MPs, he is expected to say: “The withdrawal agreement and the political declaration will not please everyone, and we have had some tough choices to make. Choices which many in Parliament, on both sides of the House, are yet to face up to. But the deal we’ve reached will give us a firm and stable base on which to leave the EU and build this country’s global future, a future that still encompasses Europe, of course, but also the wide fast-growing markets beyond, with all the opportunity that entails.
“The divisions of the referendum need to be consigned to the past. Now is the time to set aside our differences, and lead our country to a future of freedom, success, and prosperity.
“In politics we cannot always have the luxury of doing what we want for ourselves, but we have an abiding duty to do what is right for our country.”
On UK exports, he is expected to say: “At the time of the referendum, we were told that just voting to leave the EU would cause such an economic shock that we’d lose half a million jobs, our investors would desert us, and we would require an emergency budget to deal with the ensuing fiscal imbalance.
“What’s happened since? We’ve added over 700,000 jobs to the economy, with more people finding work than at any time in the past 40 years.
“This upward trajectory shows no signs of slowing. Indeed, the OBR has calculated that we can add another 800,000 jobs without creating inflationary pressure, because there’s still slack in the economy.
“In 2017 we saw total UK exports rise by 10.9% compared with 2016. And what did we sell? We sold almost £50 billion worth of mechanical machinery, £41 billion worth of motor vehicles, £16 billion worth of aircraft and £14 billion worth of medical equipment. And, as I have to mention on St. Andrews Day, some £4.3 billion of Scotch Whisky. So much for Britain not making anything anymore.”