Speaking in Vienna, the Brexit Secretary insisted the UK will lead from the front in a “race to the top” after Britain leaves the EU, rather than a dystopian free-for-all predicted by critics.
Some opponents of Brexit have warned the UK will slash protections for things like animal welfare, environmental standards and workers’ rights in an attempt to gain an advantage over the EU.
But Mr Davis told Austrian business leaders he wants the UK to maintain a ”close, even-handed co-operation” with European authorities and seek trade terms which will ensure Britain and the EU remain “closest of partners and friends”.
In a speech which focussed heavily on Britain’s future in an increasingly globalised world, the Brexit Secretary supported the French leader’s hopes for a worldwide system of regulations on everything from tax law and labour rights to product standards.
In his keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Mr Macron spoke of his vision for worldwide regulation which would reduce trade barriers and improve standards for consumers and workers.
Referencing the speech, Mr Davis said: “The future of standards and regulations — the building blocks of free trade — is increasingly global.
“And the world is waking up to it. I was struck by what Emmanuel Macron said earlier this month: ‘If we do not define a standard for international cooperation, we will never manage to convince the middle and working classes that globalisation is good for them’.
“We have to act on that insight.”
The Brexit Secretary went on to reassure business leaders of the UK’s history of and continued commitment to high regulatory standards.
He said Britain has an “unrivaled track record in promoting high standards in products at home and abroad”.
And he pledged the UK would continue to pursue this after Brexit.
He added: “I’m certain that we can get this right.”
Summing up his hopes for a fair future trading relationship, Mr Davis outlined three principles which he said would need to be respected.
The first would ensure fair competition, and mean an EU company must not be allowed to be heavily subsidised by the state and still have unfettered access to the UK market, and vice versa.
The second would aim to protect consumers against anti-competitive behaviour, meaning an EU company could merge with a UK company if it significantly reduced consumer choice.
And the third would see businesses on both sides of the channel operate with a degree of mutual respect by “recognising the distinct legal order of each side and in our determination to carry out the sovereign decision of the British people”.
Theresa May’s Cabinet has yet to reach a consensus on exactly what the UK should hope to achieve from Brexit, with reports of a widening rift over which direction to take.
Senior ministers are due to meet on Thursday to thrash out Britain’s ‘end game’ for the divorce.