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UK not looking for ‘race to the bottom’ after Brexit, says Davis

The Brexit Secretary says the Government wants close co-operation with EU regulators after leaving.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has denied ministers are preparing a programme of sweeping deregulation in a “Mad Max-style” free-for-all after Britain leaves the EU.

In a keynote speech in Vienna on Tuesday, Mr Davis will say the UK wants to maintain “close, even-handed co-operation” with EU regulatory authorities even after it has withdrawn from the bloc.

Addressing an audience of Austrian business leaders, he will argue a common commitment to high regulatory standards should ensure trade with the EU remains as “frictionless as possible” after Brexit.

Ministers have previously warned the UK would be forced to adopt a different “economic model” if it was unable to secure a satisfactory deal with the remaining 27 member states.

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 David Davis

However Mr Davis will insist the Government will continue its track record of high standards outside the EU and had no intention of engaging in a new “race to the bottom”.

“I know that for one reason or another there are some people who have sought to question that these really are our intentions,” he will say.

“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.”

Mr Davis will point to Theresa May’s commitment to maintaining and enhancing workers’ rights, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s support for a stable European banking system and Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s “crusading zeal” on animal welfare as examples of the UK determination to lead a “race to the top”.

His intervention comes amid growing calls from EU leaders for Britain to spell out exactly what kind of agreement it is seeking with Brussels.

Mr Davis will say it is the interests of both sides to be able to continue to trust each other’s regulations and the institutions that enforce them after Brexit.

I am certain that is in the interests of both sides and because of that, I am certain that we can get this right David Davis

“Such mutual recognition will naturally require close, even-handed co-operation between these authorities and a common set of principles to guide them,” he said.

“This will be a crucial part of ensuring our future economic partnership is as open and trade remains as frictionless as possible.

“I am certain that is in the interests of both sides and, because of that, I am certain that we can get this right.”

Mr Davis will say that when one side or the other wishes to change its regulations, it will be essential to ensure it does not lead to the creation of “unnecessary barriers” to trade.

“Take a car produced here in Austria to be exported to the UK. Currently, that vehicle only has to undergo one series of approvals, in one country, to show that it meets the required regulatory standards and those approvals are accepted across the European Union,” he will say.

“That’s exactly the sort of arrangement we want to see maintained even after we leave the European Union.”

CBI deputy director general Josh Hardie said business would welcome Mr Davis’s recognition of the benefits of “frictionless trade” and his commitment to maintaining high regulatory standards.

“Aligning the rules of trade across sectors to keep barriers low will help preserve jobs and investment, signalling to the world that Britain remains a great place to do business. No sector is looking for divergence,” he said.

“Evidence, not ideology, should guide the UK’s thinking on a close future relationship with the EU – and flexibily will be required from both sets of negotiators to seek solutions that will preserve prosperity on both sides of the Channel.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: “David Davis might as well be making the case for staying in the EU. They want all the advantages of staying in the single market and customs union while leaving it, which is clearly an absurd negotiating position.”

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