The speeches launching the Institute for Free Trade – and sorry, Open Britain, they didn’t undermine government policy

The speeches launching the Institute for Free Trade – and sorry, Open Britain, they didn’t undermine government policy

On BrexitCentral yesterday, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan wrote about the Institute for Free Trade he has established – a piece that was evidently read far and wide, judging by the fact that it was cited in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, no less.

I was pleased last night to attend the launch of the think-tank at the Foreign Office, contrary to misleading reports elsewhere that the event was closed to the media. In fact, I spotted fellow journalists from The TimesThe SunTelegraph and Spectator – and there may well have been others too. In attendance were a number of ministers, parliamentarians and businesspeople along with Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other senior diplomats from around forty nations.

After Daniel Hannan introduced the Institute, there were also speeches from Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson; the Icelandic Foreign Minister, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson; and International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox. It was an uplifting event, looking ahead to the UK being able again to be the world leader in promoting free trade – and I recorded the speeches so that BrexitCentral readers could share in their optimism.

Listen for yourself to:

Daniel Hannan MEP – who introduced the mission of the think-tank and how he hoped to “use Britain’s new relationship with the European Union in such a way as to revitalise the global trading system”.

Boris Johnson MP – who gave a historical perspective and noted that only with Brexit will the UK be able to “resume its historic function as the world’s leading campaigner and agitator for free trade”. And on Brexit specifically, he adds: “let’s hope the date is soon upon us without too long a transition period”.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson – who reminded the audience that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and that “everyone wants to make trade deals with you”.

Liam Fox MP – who lamented that “in the global trading environment today, all is not healthy”, suggesting it was “economically stupid” and “morally reprehensible” that “those who have benefited most from free trade are pulling up the drawbridge behind them”. “We need to champion that cause of free trade once again loudly and unequivocally,” he said.

There was, however, a stupefying and disappointing intervention from Labour MP Pat McFadden in advance of last night’s launch. Speaking on behalf of Open Britain – the continuity Remain campaign which is seeking to block and undermine Brexit – McFadden appeared actively to condemn the think-tank’s establishment and the support it enjoyed last night from senior members of the Government.

In a statement released yesterday, McFadden declared: “Any Prime Minister with an ounce of strength would not permit her Cabinet colleagues to launch think-tanks undermining the Government’s policy, let alone in a Government building… The economic interests of the country must come before the nationalist ideology to which too many ministers subscribe.”

Quite how promoting free trade is undermining government policy, I’m not sure. And how he manages to link free trade to “nationalist ideology” is anyone’s guess. Coming from a hitherto moderate Blairite who served in government as Minister of State for Business, it is frankly astonishing – and suggests to me that the anti-Brexit mob have rather lost their way.