Britain should slash trade taxes with developing countries given its Brexit “liberation” from Europe, according to an adviser to Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has established a taskforce to identify and develop proposals to drive innovation and competitiveness and reduce barriers to start-ups and scale-ups across the UK.
Tory ex-minister George Freeman, one of three MPs appointed to form the taskforce, insisted the UK needs to be better connected to emerging markets – and “embrace variable tariffs” to strengthen ties with other countries.
Freeman suggested tariffs for countries in Africa could be reduced to 0% for those with products considered to meet the “most responsible and progressive standards” on animal welfare and food quality.
Freeman’s suggestions came as MPs considered the Finance Bill, which enacts measures contained with Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget.
Speaking in the Commons at second reading, Freeman told MPs: “If we’re really going to become an innovation nation, home to these incredibly exciting technologies that will drive tomorrow’s growth, then we also need to make sure we’re better connected to those emerging markets around the world growing at 10 per cent or 20 per cent.
“As the Forsyth report recently highlighted, global population growth means by 2050 we’re going to have to double food production globally on the same land area with half as much water and energy.
“That is a phenomenal global grand challenge but it’s one this country is well positioned to respond to, with our historic strengths in agricultural science and technology and the biosciences.
“The real trick is how do we link our leadership and innovation and commercialisation in the City to global markets.
“I want to suggest our liberation through Brexit from the European trading structure – challenging though it is in many ways – does create an opportunity to embrace variable tariffs.
“Imagine saying to countries in Africa ‘look, we’re not going to charge like the European Union 40 per cent on food tariffs, that’s immoral, we’ll reduce it to five per cent or 10 per cent, but zero is only for those who are producing at the most responsible and progressive standards – the very highest standards of animal welfare and food quality, and we will help you to do that by exporting the technologies we’ve developed here using our aid budget’.”
Opening the debate, Treasury minister Jesse Norman said the Bill will support efforts to fix public finances and provide additional support to British businesses.
For Labour, shadow Treasury minister James Murray said there are “so many missed opportunities in this Bill and the recent Budget”.
He said: “The Government should have used this opportunity to make sure we invest in solutions to those problems that we have struggled with as a country for so long, from social care, to the climate emergency and the housing crisis.”