Tough months are ahead but Brexit Britain must look to the future, says OWEN PATERSON

Beating the virus will require a combination of science, technology, medicine, data, government operations, economic support, international co-operation and social support. There are tough months ahead. Yet deadly though our adversary may be, we know that it can be beaten, and that the Government has pledged to do all it can to win this fight.

So, whilst dealing with Coronavirus is rightly everyone’s top priority, we must still permit ourselves to look to the future. Indeed, it was welcome that the Government published the new Trade Bill this week to demonstrate its resolve in ensuring that important policy areas are not neglected.

In that spirit, this month I will be launching a new Centre for Brexit Policy as its Chairman. It is far from an ideal time – and there will naturally be no physical “launch” – but after months of planning we still want to get going and support the Government in its other endeavours.

This new think tank has drawn in politicians from all parties, alongside business leaders and senior academics across a range of disciplines. Recognising the substantive need for rigorous research, we aim to provide the Government with an important source of external expertise.

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The period of recovery could be long, but the countries which emerge the strongest will be those which can manage their own laws and affairs to suit their own circumstances.

For all the hardships which we now face, we should not lose sight of the fact that regaining those kinds of freedoms was exactly why the UK voted for Brexit in the first place.

The 31st January was an important moment, marking our formal exit from the EU. In the context of the global pandemic, that will seem to many a lifetime ago. But just as the Government is determined to continue the Brexit process in the best interests of all sides, so too must others be ready to help.

The negotiations into which the UK is now entering – with the EU and other countries – will be technical, and underscore the need for in-depth research and debate, guided by industry practitioners and academics. I hope that the Centre for Brexit Policy will play an important role in that process.

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