‘Singapore on steroids’: Sir Martin Sorrell lays out low-tax, low-regulation vision for Brexit Britain

Ben Chapman
Reuters

Britain should become a “Singapore on steroids” economy with low taxes, low regulation and a renewed focus on trade with America after Brexit, according to Sir Martin Sorrell.

The advertising executive laid out his ideal vision for the post-Brexit economy in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

Sir Martin, who was paid £70m by WPP in 2015 and £48m in 2016, but left the advertising conglomerate last year, said on Tuesday: “I look for a “Singapore on steroids… a regulation-light, tax-light UK economy, open for business in a way we haven’t seen before.

“It has to be the home of Amazon, Google and Facebook, not the regulatory nightmare.”

That situation would be “Nirvana” for some people, said Sir Martin’s interviewer.

It would likely alarm some voters, however, who have been reassured by Boris Johnson that he will not rip up protections for workers and the environment after Brexit.

The Labour Party has repeatedly highlighted the potential dangers to the UK of a “sellout” trade deal with the US under Donald Trump.

Jeremy Corbyn has warned a deal would usher in “Thatcherism on steroids”, which he says will include opening up the NHS to US pharmaceutical companies, stripping workers of their rights and lowering food safety standards.

Fears about the Conservatives’ plans were fuelled last month by a document leaked to the Financial Times which revealed that the EU’s Brexit department is concerned the UK may turn into a tax haven with fewer rights and weaker regulations.

The EU’s Department for Exiting Europe (DfEE) said that the Brexit trade declaration was “open to interpretation” and could allow Mr Johnson to create a “Singapore-on-the-Thames”, referring to the low-regulation island state.

Sir Martin, who supported the Remain campaign in the run-up to the general election, now says he would welcome that outcome.

On Brexit, he said: “What it does for the UK is it makes the UK a much more attractive investment destination, I think in the longer term.

“What we have to do is pivot. Our trade balances are very much European driven, western European driven, what we have to do is to alter the trading pattern in the UK, really get off our backsides and change our export-import pattern.”

Such a reorientation would take five to 10 years, he said. “It is a very big shift that’s needed and it’s going to take a long time to get it right.”

Speculation about the kind of Brexit that the government is pursuing mounted after Channel 4’s Dispatches revealed that officials held a series of meetings about Brexit with US pharmaceutical companies.

Ministers have also met with ultra-free market think tanks to discuss post-Brexit trade. In August, International trade secretary Liz Truss delivered a speech on a US-UK deal to the Heritage Foundation, an organisation promoting “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defence” which has received funding from the Koch brothers.

Ms Truss also held a series of secret meetings with the Heritage Foundation last year, Greenpeace’s investigative team, Unearthed, revealed. Among the topics discussed was “what we can learn from ‘Reaganomics’ on things like regulation and red tape”.