Daniel Kawczynski is MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham.
One of the greatest opportunities for our country post Brexit will be the ability to tailor British foreign and export policy to the British national interest, rather than the hitherto European Union policy of trying to accommodate representations from the existing 28 member states.
This will be a very exciting opportunity for us to get back to a position of negotiating in a bilateral way with the governments and institutions of some of the largest and most important emerging markets globally.
I am pleased that Liam Fox, a very experienced parliamentarian, has been appointed by the Prime Minister to head this new major government department which will be purely focussed on working on these exciting new trade agreements.
I agree with a great deal, of Fox’s political ideology and priorities, apart from one major issue which we have debated over national radio and at party conference on numerous occasions. That issue is our British relationship with Russia.
Relations between our two countries have been put into the deep freeze primarily as a result of the annexation of Crimea and the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. I understand only too well the concerns of some of my colleagues, including Fox, about how these actions do not sit comfortably with international standards and expectations.
We have however ostracised Russia without doing enough to directly engage with Moscow and to use our outsider perspective to try to help bring the two parties together to engage in greater dialogue and understanding.
The Minsk II Agreement has been extensively supported by Germany and France, and the United Kingdom has not been an integral interlocutor in these talks to the extent that Germany and France have been. That I believe has been a mistake.
We need to show the Russians that although we disagree with them over what has been happening in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea we are determined nevertheless to work with them to bring about a normalisation of relations as quickly as possible.
I would go further on the urgent need to engage with Russia to address some of the deeply disturbing events that are arising through the Middle East, North Africa and indeed even within Europe itself.
Can we really expect to defeat radicalism in the Middle East and the ongoing strife in Syria and Libya without the effective understanding and co-operation of our fellow member of the UN Security Council? Can we feel comfortable in passing on to the next generation the amount of mutual suspicion and hostility that exists between our two countries?
I am very pleased that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on which I sit, is currently undertaking one of the largest reports on Anglo-Russian relations over the last decade. We were welcomed very warmly by our Russian counterparts when we visited Moscow earlier this year and I am planning a follow-up visit after the Duma elections.
One thing however is clear: there are growing voices from major British institutions, representing large numbers of British businesses and British commercial interests, that are calling for an effective engagement between British and Russian politicians to try to rectify this impasse and to get back to a normalisation of our relationship.
The amount of trade and bilateral investment between our two countries has staggering potential and could result in billions of pounds of additional revenue, representing hundreds of thousands of new jobs and a better standard of living for the peoples of both countries.
I look forward to contributing extensively to our report in the coming weeks. I will continue to champion the need to engage with Russia, despite it not being a fashionable thing to do, because I believe sincerely it is in my country’s national interests to try to resolve these outstanding issues.