A highlight of my activities across West Cornwall last weekend was Nancledra School’s Eco Fair. Organised by pupils known as ‘Eco-warriors’ under the inspirational leadership of Mrs Williams, the school hall was full of local organisations all taking on the challenge of reducing unnecessary plastic waste (including Surfers Against Sewage, Biffa, RNLI and a number of independent businesses).
A fascinating exhibit was an alternative product to single use plastic, made from plants and fully biodegradable and a possible substitute when packaging is unavoidable. The enthusiasm and conviction of the children is testament to how seriously schools such as Nancledra are taking this issue.
Last Wednesday I joined MPs from across the political spectrum at a briefing event at the Department of International Trade. The briefing was jointly provided by Penny Mordaunt the Secretary of State for International Development, Dr Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary and representatives of the Treasury.
The thrust of the meeting was to update MPs on the progress of talks concerning emerging trade deals with nations outside of the EU and the work being done by the UK Government alongside countries such as Canada and Australia to explore and nurture new trading relationships in order to encourage international development in the world’s poorest countries.
In April Britain hosts the Commonwealth Summit and so far the conversation relating to this significant international event has focused on how we can achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (the successor to the Millennium Goals and found at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and how, working alongside the courageous leadership of Ghana in particular, we can tackle many of the age-old problems Africa has faced for generations using international trade agreements.
What is certain is that Britain will not be able to agree new trade deals of our own with countries outside of the EU if we remain in the Customs Union. Why are we so risk adverse? There is no good reason why we cannot secure a frictionless trading agreement with the EU. For example, we are all becoming accustomed with contactless payments when we pay for goods. People who understand how goods travel between Britain and mainland Europe tell me that similar technology can be used to check in and check out goods quickly and cheaply. The primary concern of exporting businesses is the time taken to process goods rather than the introduction of possible tariffs.
One thing worth remembering is that Britain remains the EU’s largest customer and EU Member States recognise this. I’d like to see a little more ambition and belief in Great Britain from parts of our media and the Labour leadership. International Secretary Dr Liam Fox, called this week for the country to prioritise ‘trading opportunities of the future’ above existing economic ties to the EU. He also warned that remaining in a customs union would leave the UK ‘with one arm tied behind our back’ when negotiating future trade deals. Not a place we want to be as far as I’m concerned.