A closer trading relationship with the United States could be possible as a result of Brexit, George Osborne indicated as he vowed to build a “global-facing Britain”.
The British Chancellor, who is heading to New York for talks with major investors, said he wanted to begin discussions with members of the North American Free Trade Agreement bloc – the US, Canada and Mexico – about forging stronger ties.
Mr Osborne has a busy schedule over the coming weeks, with a trade visit to Asia also planned in an effort to promote investment in the UK amid fears that leaving the EU could make the country less attractive to foreign firms.
The Chancellor said that although the UK is leaving the EU, “we are not withdrawing from the world” and for the first time since joining the EU it “will be setting its own trade terms”.
Brexit campaigners have insisted leaving the EU will allow the UK to strike its own trade deals with major economies and fast-growing countries without the added complication of agreeing a common position with the 27 other member states.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mr Osborne said: “There will be no immediate changes to our relationship with the EU, or the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.
“Britain won’t be rushed; we will take our time to determine the trading arrangements with our European allies outside their political union. I want to see the best possible terms of trade in goods and services, including financial services.
“But having been the voice for free trade inside the EU, we now intend to be its voice across the world. For first time in 40 years, the UK will be setting its own trade terms.
“So we should begin the conversation now with the US, and with the members of the North American Free Trade Agreement, about how we can deliver even closer economic ties.
“I have spoken to House Speaker Paul Ryan several times in the past two weeks about a stronger trading relationship – and this week I will welcome Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to London to see what more we can do together.”
The US is the largest single destination for UK exports, and the UK is America’s largest trading partner in Europe. In 2014, UK exports to the US totalled £88 billion, some 17% of total UK exports, and last year the UK was the US’s sixth largest trading partner.
The Chancellor said: “Our economic trade ties with North America must now become stronger. My message is simple: Britain may be leaving the EU, but we are not withdrawing from the world. Britain will be a beacon for free trade, democracy and security, more open to that world than ever.”
Mr Osborne, who has already set out plans to slash corporation tax to 15% in an effort to attract businesses, said that the UK could also secure “early wins” after the referendum result by investing in infrastructure including increasing airport capacity in the South East.
The decision on whether to back expansion projects at Heathrow or Gatwick has been deferred until at least October following the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the EU referendum result.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mr Osborne said: “One lesson of the referendum is that too many of our citizens feel economic progress is no longer benefiting them. Ever-higher welfare to make good lost incomes is not the answer; attracting private investment and good jobs beyond our major cities is.
“By managing day-to-day spending, we should commit to major investments in national infrastructure, including new roads, high-speed railways and digital networks.
“Post-referendum Britain can secure early wins by signing an investment deal on new civil nuclear power and going ahead with new airport-runway capacity in London. We must redouble our efforts to connect up the North and Midlands – regions that largely voted to leave the EU – by building a Northern Powerhouse based on local decision-making, world-class research and infrastructure.”