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Ministers urged to ditch chequers and embrace 'Brexit prize' by think tank

(Left to right) Shanker Singham, Gisela Stuart, David Davis MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Theresa Villiers MP attend the launch of the Institute of Economic Affairs latest Brexit research paper, in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 24, 2018. See PA story POLITICS Brexit IEA. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

By Dan O'Donoghue, Press Association Political Staff

Brexit has the potential to bring "real growth" if Theresa May's Chequers plan is ditched, according to a new report backed by prominent Tory Brexiteers.

The analysis, by the free market Institute of Economic Affairs think tank (IEA), urges ministers to seek a "basic" free trade agreement for goods and pursue "regulatory freedom and trade independence".

The report claims that Brexit creates an "historic opportunity to form trade agreements with partners around the world" and calls for discussions to secure new long-term free trade deals with countries such as the United States, China and India.

In order to ensure there is no return of a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the report calls for "cooperation mechanisms" to enable trade "formalities" between the two jurisdictions to be completed away from the border.

The report also calls for food and animal health regime in Northern Ireland to be aligned with the EU, with suitable powers devolved to the Government of Northern Ireland to enable local politicians to fully cooperate and coordinate with the Irish authorities, in accordance with the Belfast Agreement.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis, who quit the Government over the Chequers plan, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group, are among the speakers listed for the report's launch in London.

Shanker Singham, who is the director of the IEA's international trade and competition unit and co-author of the report, said: "Brexit has been too narrowly thought of as the role of the UK in the EU, whereas the reality is Brexit is a major global event.

"A G7 country is embracing independent trade and regulatory policy for the first time in 40 years - an unprecedented situation. This is where the Brexit prize lies.

"Moving forward on the unilateral, bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral pillars at the same time will maximise the UK's gains, and also maximise it chances of a good agreement with the EU.

"We have looked at Brexit in the wrong way, and in so doing we have hampered our ability to get a good deal with the EU. We must execute an independent trade and regulatory policy in order to capture gains from this process, and also to ensure that we have a better framework for negotiations with the EU.

"This plan offers a comprehensive approach which shouldn't be considered a 'Plan B', but rather a 'Plan A+' for Brexit."

The report goes on to warn that UK customs must accommodate a potentially "five-fold increase in customs documentation" between the UK and EU on the day of Brexit.

It states that this could be addressed through "general inter-agency and authority cooperation and information sharing", "use of simplified procedures and data" and "agreement that physical inspection of goods is only to be carried out by means of random checks".

The report also sets out that an enhanced FTA, to be negotiated with the EU during the transition period, would include zero tariffs on goods including agriculture and "regulatory coherence" in areas such as pharmaceuticals.

On immigration, it calls for the free movement of workers to be replaced with an "efficient and balanced framework" for the movement of workers from the EU and the rest of the world which enables the "dynamic recruitment of skills and talent where the market requires it".

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