Britain will not engage in "Mad Max-style" deregulation and easing of workers' rights and environmental standards once it leaves the European Union, the country's Brexit secretary said Tuesday.
"We will continue our track record of meeting high standards after we leave the European Union," David Davis said in a keenly awaited speech in Vienna, and not a "an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom".
Davis told business leaders in Austria, which will hold the EU presidency from July, that fears that Britain will plunge into a "Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction" were misplaced.
He said that instead of loosening rules in order to gain a competitive advantage after Britain's scheduled departure in March 2019, it will engage in a "race to the top" in standards.
This, Davis said, will also provide the trust needed between London and the EU to ensure that there can be "mutual recognition" of each other's regulations and institutions.
"This will be a crucial part of ensuring our future economic partnership is as open, and trade remains as frictionless as possible," Davis said.
But Davis's speech, the latest in a series ahead of crucial talks with Brussels on the future trading relationship due to start from April, was immediately criticised.
Opposition lawmaker Chuka Umunna said in a statement issued by pro-EU campaign group Open Britain that some of Davis's fellow ministers do want a slipping of standards.
Last week British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it would be "absurd" if Britain left the bloc but did not "take advantage of the economic freedom it will bring".
"The best way to protect and enhance the high standards that exist in this country is to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union", which British Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain will leave, Umunna said.
Britain voted in a June 2016 referendum to leave the EU and is due to do so on March 29, 2019.
Following an interim deal in December on issues including how much money Britain will have to pay, talks have now moved onto a transition period to help prepare for the split.
Once these wrap up -- chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier has spoken of "substantial" disagreements -- negotiations can then begin on Britain's future relationship with the bloc.