Road warrior David Davis says UK won't have 'Mad Max' Brexit

Britain's top Brexit official David Davis speaks in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Davis is touring European capitals as Britain tries to persuade EU leaders to strike new deals on trade and security with the U.K. (Roland Schlager/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's top Brexit official David Davis speaks in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Davis is touring European capitals as Britain tries to persuade EU leaders to strike new deals on trade and security with the U.K. (Roland Schlager/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's top Brexit official David Davis speaks in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Davis is touring European capitals as Britain tries to persuade EU leaders to strike new deals on trade and security with the U.K. (Roland Schlager/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON — Britain wants to lead a "race to the top" in global standards after it leaves the European Union, Britain's top Brexit negotiator said Tuesday, saying fears of a "'Mad Max'-style" economic free-for-all are misplaced.

In a speech aimed at allaying European concerns, Brexit Secretary David Davis told Austrian business leaders in Vienna that the U.K. does not want "to undermine Europe or act against the interests of our nearest neighbors."

Brexit won't lead to "an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom, with Britain plunged into a 'Mad Max'-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction," he said.

Davis is touring European capitals as Britain tries to persuade EU leaders to strike new deals on trade and security with the U.K.

Britain wants to retain close economic ties with the EU after it leaves the bloc in March 2019, while also becoming free to strike new trade deals around the world.

But EU leaders warn Britain can't have both freedom from the bloc's regulations and frictionless trade.

Davis argued that maintaining similar regulations and recognizing one another's standards would allow trade to continue without friction after Britain leaves the EU.

He said "neither side should put up unnecessary barriers" to free trade.

Opponents of Brexit were unpersuaded by the speech, pointing to previous statements by members of the Conservative government in favor of slashing regulations in areas including workplace rights and environmental standards.

"The government's real agenda is clear, and it is the direct opposite of what we have just been told," said Labour Party lawmaker Wes Streeting.

"Their 'hard Brexit' ideology will lead to lower standards, weaker protections and a desperate scramble for free trade agreements with the likes of President Trump, none of which will come close to making up for lost trade with Europe, and none of which have public support."

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