Johnson seeks to woo US business with low-tax vision
Boris Johnson will on Tuesday set out a vision of Britain as a low-tax, more lightly regulated economy on the edge of Europe, in a provocative post-Brexit pitch to US and Canadian business leaders to invest in the UK.The British prime minister will intensify concerns in Berlin and Paris about how he appears set on diverging from the EU economic model, raising the prospect of future trade barriers being erected between the UK and its biggest market.This month German chancellor Angela Merkel said Britain would become “an economic competitor on our own doorstep” after Brexit while France and other EU countries have warned they would impose tariffs on the UK if it did not engage in “fair competition”.Mr Johnson, in a speech in New York’s Hudson Yards, will say Britain would be “going up a gear” after leaving the EU, in his most bullish speech yet as prime minister about the supposed “opportunities” afforded by Brexit.“We are going to take advantage of all the freedoms that Brexit can give, whether that is new tax allowances for investment, or speeding up public procurement contracts, or creating free ports and new enterprise zones, or devising better regulation for the sectors in which the UK leads the world,” he will say.
No breakthrough. No breakdown. No time to lose.
“We want a market that is open to the world, with the most competitive tax rates and the best skilled workforce in the hemisphere.”Mr Johnson wants Britain to be able to “diverge” from EU rules that cover issues such as workers’ rights, environmental protection and consumer safety, often claiming the UK should have more stringent regulations.But in recent talks in Brussels, Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost has said that Britain wants to weaken the “level playing field” commitments on competition, regulation and tax rules negotiated by former prime minister Theresa May as part of her original departure deal.Mr Johnson on Monday discussed Brexit with Emmanuel Macron, the French president, Ms Merkel and Donald Tusk, European Council president, but the two sides remain far apart.Mr Tusk tweeted after his meeting: “No breakthrough. No breakdown. No time to lose.” Mr Johnson reiterated his opposition to a backstop plan to maintain an open border in Ireland that applied only to Northern Ireland.
Monday, 23 September, 2019
The UK prime minister, speaking on Tuesday on the margins of the UN General Assembly, believes that a more flexible British economy will be attractive to US and Canadian investors.He will also hold talks with US president Donald Trump about the prospects for an early UK-US trade deal after Brexit, although Mr Johnson has recently started warning the White House that he will not be a soft touch in negotiations.“I say to our American friends we will roll out the red carpet,” the prime minister will say, pointing to a more liberal immigration regime for US scientists and students coming to Britain.The EU will insist on “level playing field” regulatory provisions in any future trade deal with Britain, given the proximity of the UK to mainland Europe.Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, a think-tank, has warned the threat of future regulatory divergence between Britain and the EU could complicate the immediate task of brokering a Brexit deal, including arrangements to avoid the return to hard Irish border.“Johnson says he wants a minimal, Canada-style free trade agreement, with pronounced regulatory divergence from the 27 [other EU member states],” Mr Grant wrote.“That would increase the regulatory gap between Ireland and the UK, thus making the EU even keener to maintain some sort of . . . way of avoiding the need for controls on or near the Irish border.”Mr Johnson’s speech in Manhattan will come shortly after a ruling by the UK Supreme Court on whether he acted lawfully in suspending parliament for five weeks at a crucial moment in the Brexit process.The prime minister, speaking ahead of the ruling, was bullish in claiming he had done the right thing, but refused to speculate on whether he might resign if the court indicated that he had misled the Queen, who had to formally sanction the “prorogation”.“We must have a Queen’s Speech to move on to the domestic priorities of British people,” he said, explaining that a suspension of parliament was commonplace before a new parliamentary session began.“What are we losing? Four of five days of parliamentary scrutiny.” Asked if he was trying to stifle scrutiny of Brexit, he said: “Donnez-moi un break.”Separately Mr Johnson again ruled out the possibility of a pact with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party at the forthcoming general election, insisting the Conservatives would fight every seat.