George Eustice has warned Rishi Sunak against “letting other nations boss us about”, warning that the “sovereignty we fought so hard for” could be under threat. Mr Eustice, the former farming minister, said that the UK needs to be careful when negotiating trade deals in order to avoid losing “control” over our own regulations. He advised the UK Government to be especially careful when it comes to joining major trade blocks such as the CPTPP, as countries could “get together” to “force us to change some of our regulations”.
Mr Eustice explained: “In some of these agreements, we have to be careful we don’t lose the sovereignty we fought so hard for.
“We haven’t gone through years of argument only to find that some international court or Canada and Australia getting together can force us to change some of our regulations on food standards.
“And there is the risk that – in CPTPP if we don’t get the details right – that large Canadian investors in British water companies, for example, might object to regulations we introduce to improve British water quality.
“There is a risk that Canada, say, might bring proceedings against us saying we have to decrease our food standards.”
He added: “The public who voted to take back control would be horrified to find that we haven’t taken back to control and are instead giving control to other jurisdictions and letting them boss us about.”
The UK is currently seeking to join the CPTPP, a trade area which covers £8.4trillion of GDP and 11 Pacific nations from Australia to Mexico.
But Mr Eustice said the trade area may not be overly beneficial to the UK.
He said: “The benefits of it are marginal. It’s a relatively small group of countries – and three of them we’ve already done a trade agreement with.
“We’ve already done agreements with the bigger members, and there’s always the argument that said it would be better to do bilateral agreements with those member countries rather than join a club.
“While there is the idea that we should join the club and shape the rules – that’s the same rhetoric that was used with the EU.”
Mr Eustice has been a vocal critic of the UK’s trade agreement with Australia – negotiated by Liz Truss – saying the UK gave “away far too much for too little in return’
But he praised Kemi Badenoch and Rishi Sunak, saying they are “adopting a much more hard-headed and pragmatic approach to trade deals” than Ms Truss.
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He added: “I have my differences with Liz Truss but everything I’ve seen so far suggests that Kemi and Rishi are being more hard-headed.”
Ms Badenoch is currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she is meeting with her counterparts from countries with which the UK is currently engaged in trade talks – such as Japan and Mexico, part of the CPTPP.
She is also meeting with representatives from the US and EU to continue to press UK concerns over the US Inflation Reduction Act.
Speaking ahead of the trip, the International Trade Secretary said: “I’m going to Davos to make progress on key trade talks and speak to investors about their continued confidence in the UK
“Attracting new investment into communities will grow our economy, create higher-paying jobs, and helps to level-up the country.
“Davos is a critical opportunity to remind the world that the strength of the UK’s institutions and unrivalled talent pool make us the perfect trade partner and investment destination.”