‘We’re building global Britain not closing door to talent’ says trade minister on Cambridge visit
International Trade Minister Graham Stuart MP visited Cambridge this week ahead of the crucial talks which will define the UK’s trading arrangements with the US for a generation.
Mr Stuart dropped in to The Cambridge Satchel Company store in St Mary’s Passage on Monday to talk about the opportunities a UK-US free trade deal may bring to businesses like theirs across the UK.
Mr Stuart said: “It was fantastic to meet regional mayor James Palmer and representatives from the university and local businesses, and to meet Julie Deane at The Cambridge Satchel Company.
“The upside of a free trade deal is potentially enormous, with an expected £345million boost to the East of England, both on more companies trading and a boost to existing trade.”
The visit coincided with the publication ofaDepartment for International Trade document stating that an “ambitious and comprehensive” trade deal with the US would boost the economy to the tune of £3.4billion over 15 years. The official study adds that this is a 0.16 per cent boost to the UK economy, set against an overall economy that would be 7.6 per cent smaller in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU.
Mr Stuart appeared to distance himself from the forecast.
“These numbers have come out and they’re highly conservative – 90 per cent of global growth is expected to be outside the EU in the next five to 10 years,” he said. “Smooth arrangements and ease of access are what’s crucial.
“I would not dream of disowning my own department’s figures, but we’re used to such estimates not always being perfect.”
The US negotiations are imminent.
“The start of the negotiations will be within the next month,” Mr Stuart told the Cambridge Independent. “The Secretary of State will be going to the US first, I think that’s the plan, and we will be negotiating with the EU at the same time. Shorn of other parts of the EU economy, we will be agile and able to conclude deals more quickly than before. The UK is an agile, highly attractive economy, and there will be no French farmers or Italian leather makers to care about.”
Mr Stuart also indicated that visa arrangements for technical staff would ease.
“Access to talent is always important,” he said, “not least for R&D and the life sciences. Our new proposals will involve lowering the salary cap from £30,000 to £25,600 from January 2021, which will be an enormous boost to life sciences in the area. This includes a points-based system, so for example a PhD student in a relevant subject who speaks good English – their salary threshold could come down to £22,000, and there will be no cap on the number of people that can be brought in from anywhere in the world to fill highly skilled jobs.
“We’re building global Britain not closing the door to talent.”
Founder Julie Deane voiced her support for the deal process, saying:“I am very pleased to learn that the UK-US free trade agreement is being worked upon, this agreement is of critical importance.
“The US was one of the first markets to really embrace and support The Cambridge Satchel Company, with customers expressing their love of British style and manufacturing.”
The US is the East of England’s largest export market, accounting for 14 per cent of the East of England’s goods exports.