A Global Britain provides the chance to level up towns like Burnley and Padiham | Antony Higginbotham
This weekend will see some of the most powerful nations in the world meeting in Carbis Bay, Cornwall for the annual G7 meeting.
As the most prominent grouping of countries, the G7 has long been the catalyst for decisive international action to tackle some of the greatest challenges we face.
From supporting economic growth and debt relief in the developing world to creating a more open and prosperous planet, the focus this year will be on how we not only defeat coronavirus but how we build back better from it.
With the UK taking up the presidency of the group, it will also be a golden opportunity to further cement Britain’s place in the world, building upon the Global Britain vision that I, along with my Conservative colleagues, were elected to deliver back in December 2019.
And we should never forget that in so many areas it is the UK which has the proudest record of leading by example, taking the initiative and persuading other nations that the promotion of open democracies, free trade and the rule of law are all principles that should be promoted.
We are often our own harshest critics but in fact, we are looked to as a global leader.
That matters enormously too, because free and fair markets play a big part in enabling us to build the thriving local economy that Burnley and Padiham deserves.
And it also keeps us safe from external threats by working with those around the world who share our common values.
Already since the start of the year, the International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has been working hard to secure free trade agreements with some of the fastest growing economies on the planet; linking our local businesses with new markets who are crying out for British ingenuity.
So far that has meant free trade deals signed with over 60 Countries, and we sit on the cusp of agreements being reached with some of our closest friends who share our values, like Australia.
The G7 is also a forum to discuss the most pressing issues, where action is taken and, in my view, where Britain needs to take the lead. Whether it be on tackling climate change or making sure that big multinational companies pay their fair share of tax.
Only last Sunday the Chancellor, through the forum of the G7, was able to announce an international agreement on taxation for the big tech giants, making the global tax regime fit for the digital age.
If we are serious about boosting our high streets, then we need to create a level playing field for those companies who sell online rather than set up a local shop in Burnley or Padiham town centre. And the announcement made makes that a reality for the very first time. No more talking – now is the time to act.
And all of this action comes only a matter of weeks after the largest ship commissioned in the Royal Navy set sail for her maiden global deployment.
HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth on a tour of the Indo-Pacific region; giving Global Britain a strong military presence in an area of the world where we need to bolster our allies by exercising with them, demonstrating our commitment to keeping us all safe.
With leadership comes responsibility and that means continuing with our leading voice in international development.
A lot of talk has taken place in Parliament this week regarding our foreign aid budget being reduced from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%. Given the circumstances I think I speak for most residents in understanding why this temporary decision is necessary.
The alternative to this reduction could only result in one of three options. First would be a tax increase to pay for it; something I do not believe would be the right thing to do to our local businesses as they emerge from the pandemic.
The second would be to decrease spending in other areas, taking away vital funding for public services which are being relied upon more than ever during this period. And third is the option of borrowing.
I have heard the arguments about us having borrowed hundreds of billions in the last 12 months and so this would be a mere drop in the ocean, but we all know that isn’t sustainable.
Our focus now should be on levelling up areas of the north like Burnley and Padiham where we can grasp the opportunities Global Britain provides to towns like ours.
Our public sector investment needs to be focused – getting maximum bang for our buck so we drive up economic growth which in turn will pay for the things we all want to see.
Our own latest bid for Levelling Up Funding is a prime example of that.
The positive vision of Global Britain is moving full steam ahead. A vision which sees us lead the world in ideas; liberalise trade with a fair taxation system for the biggest corporations; and one where we are a beacon of hope for others with our strong defence capability.
Global Britain has only just begun.