Cable among figures urging Badenoch to make Board of Trade independent

Sir Vince Cable, the former business secretary, is among dozens of people calling on Kemi Badenoch to make the government’s trade council an independent body and give it a range of new responsibilities.

Sky News has seen a letter coordinated by the UK Trade and Business Commission, a cross-party business group, to Ms Badenoch, in which more than 80 signatories call for the Board of Trade to be formally tasked with monitoring Britain’s international trade performance.

Among those supporting the claim are Paul Drechsler, the former CBI president; Sir Peter Westmacott and Lord Darroch, former British ambassadors in Washington; Peter Norris, the chairman of the Virgin Group; Juergen Maier, the former CEO of Siemens UK; and Alan Winters, an economics professor at the University of Sussex.

“This new Board of Trade should be responsible for a range of tasks, including analyzing the UK’s trade performance, carrying out impact assessments of new trade agreements and overseeing the implementation of existing agreements to identify areas where they can be improved,” the letter said .

“The agency should also monitor how UK nations and regions are affected by international trade deals and carry out horizon scans to identify emerging issues of importance to UK traders and consumers.”

The letter comes in the wake of a Sky News report this month which revealed Ms Badenoch was lining up Universal Music Group boss and fashion designer Anya Hindmarch to join a revamped government council.

Ms Hindmarch, UMG chairman and chief executive Sir Lucian Grainge and Tim Bevan, co-founder of film producer Working Title are expected to be appointed to the panel.

A Whitehall source said an announcement was likely to be made next week.

The Board of Trade was originally established as a means of promoting international trade relations in the 17th century, but was dormant for decades until its revival in 2017.

Mrs Badenoch serves as its president and is said to be keen for it to gain greater prominence under her stewardship.

It is made up of various members and has already met since she took up ministerial responsibility for international trade.

The UKTBC, made up of MPs from all nine Westminster parties, along with business leaders and economists, scrutinizes UK trade deals and makes recommendations to the government.

It said that making the trade council independent in the same way as the Office for Budget Responsibility was particularly important because “trade as a percentage of UK GDP fell by 11% in the first year following the implementation of the government’s Brexit deal, with evidence , suggesting that it was a critical factor in increasing costs and red tape for UK businesses when dealing with Britain’s biggest trading partners in the EU”.

“The government’s only two meaningful new trade deals since the UK’s exit from the EU have also proved controversial, with the UK accepting terms that disproportionately benefit Australian and New Zealand exporters to the detriment of UK farmers,” the organization said.

Last month, Ms Badenoch traveled to India ahead of the G20 summit there to hold renewed talks on a trade deal between the two countries.

The identity of the remaining members of the Board of Trade is unclear, but is expected to be revealed in a formal announcement.

Dame Rosemary Squire, the theater entertainment contractor and signatory to the letter, added: “As with the OBR, any meaningfully renewed Board of Trade will be independent of government and able to publish assessments of the likely impact of future trade deals or changes to our deal with the EU on different sectors, regions and nations of the UK.”

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