Sir Vince Cable on post-Brexit trade: 'We are not going to revive the empire'

Article 50 What Next conferenceAdam Payne/Business InsiderVince Cable speaking on a panel at the ‘Article 50: What Next?’ conference in London on April 3, 2017.

LONDON — Britain’s former business and trade minister believes Britain’s ability to trade on a global scale will “deteriorate” rather than improve after Brexit and says the scope for new trade deals is minimal.

Speaking at an event in London on Monday, Sir Vince Cable said that continual assertions that Brexit will free the UK from the shackles of EU trade agreements and allow Britain to trade more with nations around the world are a fallacy.

“One of those canards is the idea that there are trade deals out there that are waiting to be signed,” he told policy group The UK in a Changing Europe’s “Article 50: What Next?” conference.

“Our trade relationships and access to markets will deteriorate as a matter of fact — not only with the EU member states but with other countries that Britain has a relationship with through the EU.”

Cable, who was Secretary of State for Business between 2010 and 2015, cited frequently used examples like China and India, saying that doing a deal with either of these countries could prove close to impossible.

“The great fallacy is that somehow we can sign up to great liberating agreements with India and China,” he said.

“The Chinese are interested in the UK but nothing to do with trade deals. The Indians already sent May packing by saying that to her ‘fine, we are happy to do more trade but we want free visas for our employees and students but you’re not willing to give them so get on your bike’.”

He added: “We are not going to revive the empire.”

Cable, who lost his seat as a Liberal Democrat MP during the 2015 General Election, has consistently criticised the government’s public optimism about Britain’s future trade relationships, telling Business Insider in an interview in February, that Prime Minister Theresa May and her team are “completely unprepared and completely ill-equipped” to strike trade deals once Britain leaves the EU.

“These things are very complex and very difficult and the government is totally unprepared for it,” he said at the time.

On Monday, Cable did acknowledge that Britain should be able to strike new deals with the likes of the USA, New Zealand, and Australia, but said that such deals are not going to offset the negatives that leaving the European Single Market will bring about.

“The potential energy that we are going to get from these deals is minimal and limited to a small handful of countries.”

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