Priti Patel is MP for Witham, and former Secretary of State for International Development.
Two years ago, over 17 million Britons voted to leave the European Union. Since then, big corporate business, millionaires and powerful forces within the establishment have fought tirelessly to cancel Brexit. They have aligned with the EU’s bullying tactics, attempting to frighten the British people into submission. These are the very voices who are delighted that the Government has caved in with the Chequers proposals – proposals that effectively mean we will never take back control of our laws, money or trade. And they hope for further concessions so that we won’t take back control of our borders either.
It is increasingly clear that Chequers is a disaster for our country and is not the right way forward for Britain. It is also a disaster for public trust and confidence in their politicians. The people democratically voted to leave the EU – this was the largest public vote in our nation’s political history. They expect their vote to be honoured and implemented. If that does not happen then they will find alternative ways to express their views and frustrations with those who have the privilege of governing our country.
The British people are not fools. They don’t like being bullied and they definitely don’t like being talked down to. And yet this is exactly how they are being treated. If today’s politicians won’t deliver and fail to implement the referendum then voters will seek out and vote for people who will. Across Europe and indeed the world we have seen what that means – the terrifying rise of extreme, nationalist and fringe parties.
Look no further than Greece, Sweden, Italy, Germany and Austria to name a few European countries. In Britain, UKIP is stirring from the political grave and is rising from its purple coffin, feeding off the Chequers capitulation. Make no mistake, this is an early warning of what will come, and the long-term consequences if the largest democratic vote in British history is frustrated. We will face a crisis of democracy in which ordinary people will utterly lose their faith and trust in politics and in politicians.
It is important to remember why the British people voted to leave the EU. They wanted to take back control of our laws, money and trade. They wanted to take back control of our borders, too. They had had enough of uncontrolled borders, of free movement and the pressures placed on schools, health services and housing. They had also had enough of the use of cheap low-skilled labour and the failure to invest in skills and training at home. Yet most of all, the people of our country voted to leave because they believe in Britain. They believe in a nation that is a land of opportunity, independent, one that stands tall in the world.
They were right then and they are right now. For the EU is becoming economically more feeble every year. Europe used to account for 30 per cent of the world economy a few decades ago. Now it’s just 15 per cent. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of future global growth is set to come from the rest of the world. We cannot allow the EU to keep dragging us down. Our nation needs to look to the future far beyond the shores of Europe.
This economic reality is why we must chuck Chequers. Britain cannot be out of Europe in name but still run by Europe – we should be free from Europe and free to engage with the rest of the world. Yet this message of freedom, optimism and ambition for the future is completely absent from Government. Instead all we get is doom-mongering, endless Project Fear, and bullying threats from the EU.
These are the same discredited tactics they used in the referendum. The British people rejected them then and will reject them now. Remember how before the referendum they said our economy with nosedive by six per cent, house prices would collapse, and 800,000 people would lose their jobs? Yet here we are today with record jobs, a faster growth rate than the EU, and house prices still strong. This is why the British people continue to reject Project Fear – because they’ve heard it all before.
Now the EU and their doom-mongering allies try to intimidate us. We hear the frightening threats of queues from Dover all the way back to London. The bullying talk of how our aircraft will never take off again. The fear of being ripped off by credit card companies, starved of food and medicines. They even dare to deny us the joy of the humble British sandwich!
This isn’t going to work. The British people know better and they will not stomach this relentless tirade of fear. They know that trade with the EU benefits everyone – yet the EU is the winner as they sell us £95 billion more in goods than we sell to them. Despite the constant negative rhetoric, Britain is in a strong position to negotiate a positive agreement. Any problems with trade will hit the EU far harder than us. To threaten air travel is equally absurd. Putting their tourism industry at risk, as well as flights to the USA for which they need to use our air traffic control systems, is not going to happen.
A punishment Brexit would not simply boomerang on the EU – it would mean no divorce payment, which would mean a £40 billion Brexit bonus for Britain. That’s why it won’t happen. The fact they make these threats underlines that the EU is not an organisation that we want to run our affairs.
Our negotiating advantages are meaningless if we do not leverage them for the future of our country. The time has come for our political leaders to believe in Britain and in the British people. The Conservative Party had thought that because of Brexit we had finished off UKIP at the last General Election. Yet if we fail to take back control of our laws, borders and money we will feed their re-emergence and the rise of other parties. That is what happens when mainstream politicians fail to address the concerns of the voters. We are a global trading power and the fifth largest economy in the world. Throughout our history our wealth has come from our ambition, entrepreneurial skills and global reach. Now is the time to chuck Chequers, believe in Britain and forge an independent and successful nation in the years to come.