The British people’s historic vote to leave the EU – the largest democratic result ever in our country – is not something to be feared.
It wasn’t a vote to leave Europe or to pursue an isolationist future. It was a vote for us to become a strong, independent nation once again – a country that is not afraid of standing on its own two feet.
The British people recognise, as I do, that around 90 per cent of global economic growth will come from outside the EU in the years ahead, and that the EU now accounts for less than half of our overall trade. Over 90% of all trade travels by sea – and we are inextricably linked to this global network. As we leave the EU, the one thing which remains fixed is our geography. We will remain, as we always have been, an island maritime nation, outward-facing and trading across the globe. British goods and services are recognised as the best in the world and sought after by global customers. This will not change.
So we must look beyond the shores of our European continent and be prepared to walk away from negotiations if the deal offered by the EU does not deliver a real Brexit – and be unafraid of doing so. We only need to be ready to trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules: international laws that regulate the trading relationships of 164 member states and around 98% of global trade.
We will be leaving on 29th March next year and only a good deal for the UK should be agreed to. Otherwise we will be insulting the democratic request given to Parliament.
It is starting to be more than a little boring to have to listen to the almost daily ritual of doom, gloom and scaremongering. We are told there will be border chaos, food and medicine shortages, hikes in prices, states of emergency, gridlocked motorways, catastrophe – even an end to peace in Northern Ireland and civil unrest.
Beyond the Westminster village, and certainly at the top of England in my constituency, 350 miles from London, people listen to all this with incredulity. Last week’s Budget implemented our-tax cutting manifesto promises early, lifting more of the lowest paid out of tax altogether. It announced an unexpected tax windfall that we’ve been able to spend on our vital public services. UK salary growth has now risen to 3.1%, the fastest growth in wages in almost a decade, employment levels are at their highest since the 1970s and we’re growing steadily as an economy. Our future has never looked brighter.
Voters comprehensively rejected establishment scare stories during the 2016 referendum debate – and it turns out that they were absolutely right to do so. Let’s not bore and patronise them further; let’s get to the heart of how beyond March 2019 should look.
My long-held view is that we can deliver a great future trading relationship – and more – after our departure from the EU club, by agreeing a mutually beneficial trade deal for the whole of the UK, similar to Canada’s. This arrangement would allow us to boost our global competitiveness and innovation, as well as help the world’s poorest countries by enhancing trade and investment opportunities that contribute to the economic growth of their less-developed economies.
This isn’t a “hard” or “extreme” version of Brexit. This would be, as Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said of his free trade deal, about creating “good, well-paying jobs”, putting “food on the table for families”, helping to “grow and strengthen our communities” and ensuring that each generation is “better off” and has a “higher standard of living, than the one that preceded it”. Why would this sort of deal be so bad for us?
If the EU doesn’t want to negotiate this sort of free trade deal with us immediately, we won’t crash out of the EU over some invisible cliff edge. Far from it: there are protections in place for the UK under international law under a set of terms overseen by the World Trade Organisation. The US, China and India are among the EU’s biggest trading partners – and they do not have a trade deal with the EU. They trade on WTO terms.
No deal would be better than a bad deal because being tied into EU regulations without a voice would only mean their controlling our future success by anti-competitive actions.
Under WTO rules – putting the bluff, bluster and meaningless threats aside – the EU won’t be allowed to discriminate against UK businesses. It won’t be able to set tariffs on our goods that are higher than those they impose on other countries; and it will be forbidden from using other regulations or standards (non-tariff barriers) to discriminate against our goods and services.
Arbitrary health and safety inspections at borders would not be lawful and the WTO’s new “Trade Facilitation Agreement” would require the EU to maintain borders, which are as frictionless as possible, using all the modern technologies at its disposal.
The WTO has taken great strides in promoting global trade since its inception in 1995. And at its roots lie values we all share: an end to discrimination, more openness and transparency, increased competition, discouraging unfair practices, protecting the environment and ensuring less developed countries have extra time to adjust to WTO provisions.
We need to be having our own voice at the WTO, speaking up for the interests of British consumers and businesses. We don’t need the European Commission to do this for us.
The WTO option is an entirely acceptable, workable alternative to a free trade deal as we leave the EU and Roberto Azevedo, the Director General of the WTO, has said that he is looking forward to having the UK back as an independent champion of free trade.
The UK is strong enough to walk away from these negotiations. Future generations won’t forgive us if we agree a bad deal with the EU that means we have not left the controls of others over our decisions.
There is no cliff-edge, just a stepping-stone to the future that our extraordinary democratic voice shouted at us – let us become, once again, a self-governing, free-trading nation.
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