Charlie Elphicke is MP for Dover and Deal.
The doom-mongers all claimed Brexit would be a disaster. The Bank of England issued blood-curling warnings of unemployment. The Treasury issued its infamous Project Fear dossier, featuring claims of an immediate recession.
Yet what’s happened? Unemployment is now at its lowest in over four decades, with more than 32 million people in work. GDP is up 1.5 per cent year on year. And there has been no recession.
Now the fear-mongers are at it again. The EU-funded CBI says we must stay in the Single Market and EU Customs Union or face certain doom. Meanwhile, Lord Adonis claims leaving both would be “an abject surrender of the British national interest”.
Yet the truth is Britain can be better off after Brexit. Already (with apologies to Jurgen Klopp) doubters are turning into believers. Even Mark Carney says we can be “optimistic… about the future trade opportunities that come from Brexit.”
By increasing trade with fast-growing nations outside the EU we can turn Britain into an economic powerhouse of global trade – and cut the cost of food and clothes to help the poorest. We can support developing nations with fair trade, free trade. And we can strike trade deals that put British jobs first.
So how do we get there? In the latest paper in my Ready on Day One series, Ready on Day One for Global Trade, I set out what our future relationship with the EU and the rest of the world can look like.
Leaving the EU
Firstly, we must fully leave the EU, its Single Market and its Customs Union. Why? Because only then can we take back control of our laws, our borders, our money and our trade policy – and take full advantage of the opportunities that Brexit brings. What’s more, if we are going to have an ‘Implementation Period’, we must agree the end state first – or be prepared to walk away.
Throughout our history we have always been a great trading nation. Yet since we gave up and handed over our right to make trade deals to Brussels when we joined the EU, we have not fulfilled our potential. The EU’s own forecasts say that 90 per cent of global growth is set to come from outside of Europe. Over the past 40 years the EU has withered from 30 per cent of global GDP to 15 per cent today. During the same period, emerging markets and developing economies have soared from 36 per cent of global GDP to 59 per cent. It’s not hard to see where our long term focus should be.
To achieve a trade deal that puts British jobs first and takes advantage of the global opportunities available, the Government needs to be strong in the negotiations with the EU. Each year, the UK imports £240 billion of goods from the EU and exports £144 billion of goods to the EU. The EU has a surplus of £96 billion in goods trade with the UK. We need to make it clear that a deal is as much in the interests of the EU as in ours.
Priorities for UK trade policy
After Brexit, the EU will remain an important trading partner. So we should seek a free trade agreement in both our interests. Yet the UK must not be limited in regulatory divergence from EU rules or in trade deals with third countries. We cannot allow the EU to run us by remote control.
To ensure we take full advantage, we must be free to strike whatever trade deals we want and be open for business. Ensuring a pro-competitive, open economy is important for our own prosperity. It is also essential to make successful trade deals that allow us to lower tariffs on food and clothing to help the least well-off. And trade policy can’t just be left to the Department for International Trade. The drive for trade, growth and jobs must be a whole Government effort.
We should promote fair trade, free trade, as an extension of our international aid policy. We should increase trade with countries that suffer most from poverty to boost their economies, while ensuring UK consumers get the best possible deal.
A vote for change
The vote to leave the EU was a vote for change. A belief that Britain can do better. It is through global trade that we will drive our economy forwards. And by getting it right by making sure we don’t overpay the EU, the promises made during the referendum can be fulfilled – especially spending at least an additional £100 million a week on the NHS.
It is by making good on these promises and trading with the world as a whole that we will reignite a belief in our future. About the kind of nation we can build. And about turning doubters into believers – even the EU-funded CBI.