Penny Mordaunt is Minister of State for Trade Policy, and is MP for Portsmouth North.
Proper Conservatives are used to being shouted at by armchair lefties. Check the scenes below the line if you want a taste. Brexiteers are bigots. Conservatives are evil. Tory scum (ironic – given that the soft water areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire were where the Labour Party was so heavily defeated).
Still, we get used to it. They said we couldn’t revive the private sector during the Seventies. We did. They said we couldn’t retake the Falklands in the Eighties. We did. They said that the EU was an unstoppable enterprise in the Nineties. It wasn’t. They said we were finished as a party two decades ago. We weren’t. A decade ago they said Scottish independence was inevitable. It wasn’t.
We also get used to hearing how much more superior Labour would be in government, if only it had the chance. Perhaps it would intrude on the delusion to recall their track record? In 120 years of the Labour movement from Keir Hardie to the present day a Labour Leader has only been returned to office twice. We should be confident about what we stand for. We should remember that, more often than not, it is Conservatives that have been in tune with the British people. Part of the reason for that is our respect for those who step up and take responsibility, particularly those who create wealth and opportunity.
What comes from the liberal left is a unique combination of the deeply ignorant and the profoundly opinionated. It is half-baked certainty sitting on a thick base of groupthink. It’s the sort of certainty that can only come from over-educated under-achievers. People who have never done anything. Never created or built anything. People who don’t value others that do.
Since Brexit, it has become fashionable to say everything is an economic disaster. Well, that isn’t true either. We have record low unemployment and the country remains one of the largest recipient of foreign direct investment. Not despite Brexit. Because of it. Despite the challenges of the pandemic we are starting to realise the trading opportunities that come from our new freedoms.
The Left are at it again on the subject of a Free Trade Agreement with the US. They ignore that we have completed five rounds of negotiations at a federal level. They say of our state level efforts: “Individual states cannot sign trade agreements.”
They can. (California did so with Japan only in March this year in a deal to boost trade and tackle climate change. They say: “The Americans have sent us to the back of the queue.” They haven’t. Britain remains one of the largest foreign direct investors in America. They say: “US Federal officials just aren’t interested in UK all the time there are negotiations on the Northern Irish Protocol”.
Frankly, that’s irrelevant. Wherever I’ve been in the last year at the state and City level, I’ve been welcomed by open-minded, helpful and collaborative officials. They don’t care where I’m from. All they see is mutual opportunity. They say: “you should not just focus on the federal level.” In fact, 93 percent of all US economic growth will come from the metro areas. This makes Mayors as relevant as State Governors to nations and regions looking to forge partnerships and open up trade.
This week, we sign the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an American state, with almost half of the 50 Americans states to follow. The trailblazer states include: Indiana, Oklahoma, North and South Carolina. It is expected that Texas will be one of the first eight states to sign an MoU with the UK.
This first agreement, with Indiana, marks a milestone in UK’s trade with the US. It will help open the door to businesses looking to export or invest in the state. It will increase collaboration on clean tech to fuel sustainable economic growth. Above all else, it shows UK ‘state level strategy’ is securing results.
The MoU format creates a framework to remove barriers to trade and investment, paving the way for UK and local businesses to invest, export, expand and create jobs. The state of Indiana is an entrepreneurial powerhouse, offering UK firms significant opportunities in areas like renewable energy, advanced manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
The UK is the seventh largest export market for Indiana, and the state buys $1.4 billion worth of goods from the UK. This agreement will accelerate and grow this even further. The agreement specifically will look to improve procurement processes and strengthen academic and research ties, enabling easier collaboration. It will support our professionals with provisions on diversity aligning with our levelling up agenda to ensure economic growth benefits all communities across the country.
It will help talented people from the UK and US to work in either country by clearing the way for their professional qualifications to be mutually recognised. We are focussing on four priority professions – architecture, engineering, legal services, audit and accountancy for mutual recognition of qualifications and processes.
The deepening of relationships at state level is leading to some interesting new opportunities. There are offers to swap officials in key government departments, so our respective teams can learn more about how we both operate. Agriculture Commissioners in the US and DEFRA officials have expressed an interest in participating. Some US states have offered to fund UK businesses and producers to visit the US and learn more about their market. In return, we are partnering up different parts of the UK with places we want to help level up in the UK. The whole process has created real momentum towards a federal deal too.
The state-level strategy is paying off and this is just the first of many agreements we’ll be signing in the future as we look to bolster our £200bn trading relationship with the US. Green trade will be at the heart of talks as both sides look to accelerate clean tech development, with a particular focus on electric cars and low emissions technology solutions. This agreement is just a beginning.
How has this happened? With flexibility, determination and imagination from our civil servants and economic staff. Despite the hammering that they get from media, our colleagues have worked wonders. With great ideas from organisations like the IEA focused on removing the barriers that bring people, ideas and capital together. With great business engagement and a determination from Government to deliver the opportunities Brexit promised.
Government can and is creating the infrastructure for enterprise. For many years business has been told to wait for government, for the rules to be established. It is time for business to assimilate a new enterprise culture. It is time we let it.