Now the Withdrawal Agreement and all the negotiations have been so roundly defeated, it is the moment to seize the opportunity to vigorously promote the WTO way forward. There is no signed agreement, and there is no legal obligation to abide by its costly rules.
Let us now be confident in the enormous opportunity which presents itself. It has been calculated that a WTO Brexit would produce a GDP boost of 7 per cent to the UK economy over the next 15 years which would be worth about £140 billion. Furthermore countries outside of the Single Market have increased their exports faster than Britain has to the EU over the last 30 years. Even Peter Mandelson admitted the Single Market has its downsides, estimating the cost of EU regulation at 4 per cent of GDP.
The UK economy is growing, public borrowing is down and unemployment is at its lowest since 1975. Facebook, Apple and Google have planned big headquarters in Britain, London has been crowned the world’s most popular city for work and Siemens plan to create 2,000 jobs in the UK. Whilst the good economic news continues, the scare stories about border disruption have been completely torpedoed. The head of the Port of Calais, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, has said they won’t restrict UK trade at all if we leave without a deal. Please can we now end Project Fear? Nobody else sees us in the drab, declining way we sometimes see ourselves. By contrast, the rest of the world is waiting for Britain to shake off the tin-pot diktats of Brussels and emerge as a global trading giant. Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the US want to sign speedy trade deals. Now the Withdrawal Agreement has been voted down, Britain could lower tariffs and have the pick of the world’s markets.
Legally we’re on solid ground. The House of Lords EU financial affairs sub-committee published a report arguing that we can leave the EU without paying anything: Brussels would have no realistic chance of getting £40 billion of taxpayers’ cash. Legal expert Martin Howe QC points out that leaving the European Union without a formal deal is not a step into a legal vacuum as our international trade with the European Union will become subject to the same legal regime which currently governs the majority of our export trade to the rest of the world: the rules-based system of the World Trade Organisation.
Electorally we can offer the country an authentic and optimistic agenda that offers enterprising Britons a bright future. Outside of EU constraints we can take on the vested interests, slash costly taxes for small businesses and re-balance the economy towards wealth creators and entrepreneurs. The provisions under the doomed Withdrawal Agreement for State Aid could have been used by the EU to restrict the UK’s ability to attract foreign investors by cutting taxes. But outside of EU rules we are free to recreate the ‘big bang’ of the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher successfully managed to free the parts of the economy which create wealth to do what they do best, boosting growth across the country.
In almost every aspect of British life there are positives to leaving without a deal. For example, a WTO Brexit would be the catch of the century for Britain’s struggling fishing community. At the end of March we can regain 60% of the UK’s fisheries resources and rejuvenate a multi-billion pound industry for the nation, boosting coastal towns and regaining our sovereign waters. For consumers that means cutting tariffs on imports, reducing the cost of food, clothing, and footwear. And leaving now, with no deal, ends business uncertainty. The Chairman of JCB Anthony Bamford says opting for a WTO deal does not worry him at all.
With the euro stagnating, youth unemployment between 20 and 50 per cent in many EU countries, Germany in technical recession, Greek democracy shattered, and France steeped in riots, we should look with confidence to our own future. As aloof bureaucrats who were voted by nobody give succour to the far-right across the continent, it is clear that the failing institutions of EU integration are the wrong side of history.
With our dynamic skilled workforce, the English language, and our global opportunities under WTO rules, a rejuvenating atmosphere of freedom – both democratic and economic – means an exit without a deal is what Britain can now embrace.
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