EU red tape is ‘DESTROYING British industry’ – Tory Mayor lashes out at Brussels rules

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The Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley explained procurement rules, which require EU states to open up higher-value contract opportunities to bids across the Union, have meant a loss of business for the British economy. Ben Houchen noted that by investing in British businesses, it would help long-term unemployment and give workers skills.

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Speaking in Sedgefield on the second day of the Blue Collar Conservatism Conference 2020, Mr Houchen said: “I’m as anti-EU as anybody, I really am for lots of different reasons.

“There are lots of different things you can do in the current procurement rules that the UK Government and local councils don’t implement.

“Even within the rules as we speak, just the basics of saying we’re going to whack up what we think is the legal maximum of 20 percent local content and economic benefit.

“The second bit is if you talk about the environmental benefits then logistic chains have to shorten because I think what local councils and government have looked at the Government’s understanding of the value of everything and the cost of nothing.

“To do something with British steel might cost us £10million more than with the French but that’s £10million going back into the local economy.

“It’s creating more jobs and giving more people skills which means those people will never have got those skills and therefore probably been unemployed long-term.

“The Government is not capturing that value of the knock-on impact.

“The big test for the Government at the end of the year in a deal or no deal scenario is change of procurement rules, get rid of state aid, customs union.

“That is the thing that is destroying the flexibility in the UK Government.”

His comments come as the EU and the UK both said a post-Brexit deal was still some way off and differences persisted on Monday over putting in place their earlier divorce deal as they began a decisive week of talks in Brussels.

The UK left the EU last January and is locked in negotiations on a new trade deal from 2021, as well as on implementing the divorce, as set out in the withdrawal agreement, especially on the sensitive Irish border.

EU national leaders will assess the state of play at a summit next month, with a no deal Brexit still possible.

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Negotiations have stumbled over fisheries, fair competition and settling disputes, and Brexit descended into fresh chaos this month when London proposed draft laws that would undermine the earlier agreement.

All week Express.co.uk will bring you exclusive coverage of the Blue Collar Conservatism Conference 2020, an event founded by former minister Esther McVey to listen to the views of grassroots voters in new Conservative seats across the UK. 

Express journalists will travel up and down the country with Ms McVey’s team to hear what real people think of the key issues affecting their lives.

Of the event in association with the Daily Express, Ms McVey said: “This is the start of doing the traditional party conferences in a very different way. It is a Party Political Conference first. Travelling the country reaching out and speaking to the public and then getting Cabinet Ministers to reply.”  

Tune in at 6.30pm tonight for the big Blue Collar Conservatism debate

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