This week marks one year to go until the UK legally leaves the European Union and gets at least one hand on the keys to unlock the bloc’s protectionist prison door.
At last, we are counting down the days, not the years, until we leave the EU – so what better time to cast off the long shadows of Brexit negativity that stalk much of Westminster’s political class.
While many businesses I speak to across the country are anticipating our exit from the EU with optimism – and polls clearly show voters want the Government to get on and leave – many politicians and parts of the media seem to be in a never-ending spiral of ‘despite Brexit’ syndrome.
One honourable exception is Jacob Rees-Mogg, who I am delighted to be hosting at a Leave Means Leave event in central London today.
It is often forgotten that the origin of the largest democratic mandate in British history was not simply a shiny red bus, but as a result of our country’s mummification within the EU institutions that went unchecked by successive British governments.
As Jacob will say, the notion that UK growth was supercharged thanks to our time in the EU is wrong. In fact, since the UK joined the EEC/EU, GDP per capita growth has been slower than it was from the decades spanning from 1950 to 1973.
Being encased by the protectionist wall of the EU’s customs union has kept prices of food, clothing and footwear artificially high, while uncontrolled unskilled EU immigration thanks to our membership of the Single Market has depressed the wages of working people. These two factors have conspired to hit the pockets of the poorest in society.
The task for the current Government is to shake off our nation’s pessimistic stoop of recent history and look ahead to the many opportunities Brexit will bring, with wide eyes and a straight back.
This means leaving the Single Market in order to regain control over our borders.
This means leaving the Customs Union in order to regain control of our trade policy and reducing the Common External Tariff to reduce the cost of everyday items; and the opportunity for free ports, creating thousands of manufacturing jobs in some of the most deprived parts of the country, should be grasped and celebrated.
This also means leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, in order to make the UK Parliament at Westminster and the UK Supreme Court the arbiters of UK laws and justice.
Seizing the benefits of a clean Brexit gives this country so much to be optimistic about – 90 per cent of future global growth is predicted to take place outside of the bureaucratic borders of the European Union, so Britain should be out there with our sleeves rolled up, doing deals with emerging markets.
As for the EU, they sell more us than we do to them, so it is in their interests to reach a sensible agreement on our future partnership.
It is right for the Government to be ambitious about the deal it wants. However, we must not wait too long. Canada’s Free Trade Deal, CETA, acts as a good template to get started with, covering almost all goods and agricultural products. We must not make the same compromises as we have in the implementation period. There is simply no need. No deal is still better than a bad deal.
Brexit done properly will provide a healthier UK economy, that should easily outperform the numbers on the red bus.
Less than a year to go is an important milestone. It reinforces that it is happening. We must all talk in terms of days left from here on. This will mark a step-change in how people should view Brexit – less talk of phantom ‘problems’, more talk of ‘possibilities’ aplenty.