Put Brexit talks with EU on backburner and open negotiations with rest of world, Theresa May told

Christopher Hope
Shanker Singham

Britain should put the deadlocked Brexit negotiations with the European Union on the backburner and open trade talks with rest of the world, according to a radical plan backed by Boris Johnson and David Davis.

The 140-page plan from the Institute of Economic Affairs recommends seeking global trade deals now to force the EU to give Britain a better trade deal after leaving the EU next March.

The report - titled "Plan A+: Creating a prosperous post-Brexit UK" - will offer a way out for Theresa May after her humiliating Salzburg summit where EU leaders said her Chequers deal was unworkable.

By opening talks now the UK could accelerate the signing of trade deals after Brexit which could be worth as much as 7 per cent on Britain’s gross domestic product by the middle of the 2030s.

Bi-lateral talks could be opened primarily with America, and possibly India and China. The IEA has also obtained a legal opinion that says Britain has the right to negotiate - but not implement - new deals before leaving the EU.

It will also means that British politicians will be able to start talking about the opportunities of deals with other countries, rather than trying to solve the issue of leaving no hard border in Northern Ireland.

It comes after Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that he was "always listening to new proposals and new ideas".

One senior source with access to the report said the UK was "in the lions’ den with the EU. We have chosen to make ourselves alone and all our friends are in the stands, wanting to get down and help us". 

The report will be unveiled on Monday morning by Shanker Singham, the Director of International Trade and Competition at the IEA and a former trade adviser to the US government.

It is being supported by former Tory Cabinet ministers Mr Davis and Mr Johnson, as well as Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs

The report urges Mrs May, the Prime Minister, to implement a wide-ranging, multi-faceted trade policy now rather than to wait until the EU exit talks are concluded.

This new “independent trade policy” could see Britain’s gross domestic policy increase by 5 to 7 per cent over 15 years, it says.

Britain would seek early access to the existing Trans-Pacific Trade partnership as part of the new strategy while at the same time Britain could unilaterally drop tariffs on some products that UK does not produce such as oranges and mangoes.

Shanker Singham Credit: Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick

A senior source with access to the report said: “It is not just about trade deals - it is the overall trade policy. 

“Some of that is accomplished through trade deals, some of that is accomplished through being more active within WTO rules.

“The further along we are in a deal with the US and TPTP accession, the more likely it is that we will get the deal we need from the EU.

“We have conducted ourselves in such a way so that is not possible. If you did everything together the EU piece would fall into line."

The report says there is no single solution to the border in Northern Ireland but suggests 15 options to solving the issue of not having a hard border after Brexit including third party inspections and customs checks along way from the border.

It also says that in the event of a no-deal Brexit both the UK and EU could agree not to impose a hard border within World Trade Organisation rules.

The source added: “The US desperately wants to do a deal - Trump is constantly talking about it. Why not offer a text of a UK-US Free Trade Agreement now?

“You are not going to implement anything until we are out of the EU. There is no reason not to start. You can't really start trade talks until there is an actual text, with chapters. That needs to happen otherwise it is all fudge.”