UK won't be a 'Mad Max dystopia' after Brexit, says Davis

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Brexit Secretary David Davis has dismissed claims Britain is heading for a "Max Mad-style" dystopia after it leaves the European Union with a sweeping programme of deregulation.

In a keynote speech in Vienna, Mr Davis said the UK was determined to maintain its track record of high regulatory standards - from workers' rights to the environment - after Brexit.

Addressing Austrian business leaders, he said the commitment offered a "clear read across" into the forthcoming talks on a free-trade deal with the remaining 27 member states.

However, Labour said his assurance that the UK would not lead a "race to the bottom" outside the EU "isn't worth the paper it's written on".

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "How are people meant to trust the Brexit secretary when his colleague Liam Fox has said current protections mean it's 'too difficult' to fire staff, and Boris Johnson has described workers' rights coming from the EU as 'back-breaking'?

"The truth is there are many in Theresa May's government who want to use Brexit as an excuse to drive down standards and weaken fundamental rights."

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson described Brexit as "a mess" during a private meeting with senior German officials, EU sources have claimed.

He is understood to have been referring to the complex Brexit negotiations rather than the British decision to leave the bloc, which he campaigned for in the referendum.

In his speech, Mr Davis acknowledged there were concerns about Britain's commitment to maintaining regulatory standards outside the EU.

"I know that for one reason or another there are some people who have sought to question that these really are our intentions. They fear that Brexit could lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom, with Britain plunged into a 'Mad Max'-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction.

"These fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing - not our history, not our intentions, nor our national interest."

His comments follow previous warnings by ministers that the UK could adopt a different "economic model" if it was unable to secure a satisfactory deal with the EU - raising concerns it could seek to undercut the remaining member states with a low-regulation economy like Singapore.

However, Mr Davis said maintaining high regulatory standards could help ensure trade with the EU remained as "frictionless as possible" after Brexit through "mutual recognition" of each other's rules and institutions. While he acknowledged the negotiations would not be easy, he said there were already models as to how a deal could be achieved.

"While we will be seeking a bespoke agreement, there are already precedents outside the EU that we can look to," he said.