Today, Britain is forging a new path as a sovereign nation-state. We will stand by our long-held values of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, tolerance, and the rule of law. We will work hard to support our European friends and neighbours and our allies around the world, and we will continue to stand by the world’s poorest. But we must also seize the opportunity of our new freedoms: the opportunity to cast Britain as an icon of an outward-looking modern state.
To do that, we have to recognise the changing factors disrupting the world as we know it today. First, the world’s economic centre of gravity has shifted East, and the Indo-Pacific region is now the fastest-growing region in the world. Second, the rise of technology is profoundly changing how we live and work. Those who can’t keep up will lose out. We need to prepare ourselves for the century ahead.
Mr Speaker, we should be proud of the talents borne across these islands and our shared achievements to date. We are the world’s fifth-largest economy, with more Nobel Prizes and world-leading universities than any European country. We are a diplomatic superpower and a nuclear power, benefiting from our leadership role in NATO, our permanent membership of the UN Security Council, and our role in the G7. We have a leading global financial centre, and we consistently attract the highest foreign direct investment in Europe. And along with China, the US, and India, we are one of the top ffour breeding grounds for tech unicorns – those rare new companies that achieve billion-dollar valuations.
However, the world doesn’t stand still and neither can we. We must now use our hard-won freedoms to keep up with a changing world. The freedom to revise our regulations, at speed, to meet the pace set by the world’s brightest innovators; to strike new trading relationships which suit our distinct economic strengths; to spur on our specialist sectors.
Britain’s record on Covid-19 vaccinations – vaccinating more people than the rest of Europe combined – has reminded us all of the importance of an ambitious and agile state which controls its own regulation. We can use progressive regulation to push new boundaries from AI to fintech, from life sciences to gene editing.
We can also be ambitious with our new global partnerships, particularly in the Indo Pacific. Our new trading freedom means Britain can join the CPTPP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Already the largest trade agreement by population, if the US joins, it will be the largest free-trade agreement in the world. Our trade agreement with Japan, the world’s third-largest economy includes some of the most cutting edge digital free trade provisions anywhere in the world. And we can do more to collaborate with our Indo Pacific partners from space alliances to green finance to protecting our shared values.
The pandemic has shown us that we need to modernise our state, address regional inequality, and build in resilience for the next global shock. It has also highlighted our strengths – from genomic sequencing to the full financial firepower of the British Treasury standing behind our businesses and workers. And of course, the scientific community which has developed an affordable vaccine for the world at the Oxford Jenner Institute.
We have used our soft power and our funds to ensure that those in the developing world aren’t left behind. We are the biggest funder of CoVax, the global vaccine alliance, which will ensure that we can get at least one billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to more than 90 developing countries.
Through innovation and partnerships, we are helping to get the vaccine to those who need it most, proving that an independent Britain is not only good for us but good for our friends across the world. Indeed, it is a fitting first step for a new truly Global Britain.