Happy Independence Day!
If you read the Remain press, you probably think Brexit is all about bringing back blue-coloured passports. But in reality, there are many things that we’ll be able to do as a free and independent sovereign nation as we take back control – of which determining the colour of our passports is just one (however satisfying that might be to some).
Given how pervasive EU influence in this country has become, there is actually a hell of a lot of things that the government could potentially do in future that it couldn’t do before Brexit. Of course, how much wriggle room we have will ultimately depend on what kind of future relationship the prime minister negotiates with the EU, but given the large Tory (and Leave) majority in the commons, it would seem likely that no-deal would now be preferable to a bad deal if the EU aren’t prepared to play ball.
So, as all you Brexiteers prepare to celebrate as we approach 11pm on Friday 31st January, here’s what we could do with that hard-earned freedom…
This one is clearly the biggie and the one from which most of the economic logic behind Brexiteer arguments stems. Upon exiting the EU’s customs union, the UK will be free to conduct trade deals with countries around the globe, offering preferential trading relationships with countries where a Free Trade Deal (FTA) can be negotiated. The UK should initially be able to roll over many of the EU’s c. 60 FTAs with third-party countries, and any such treaties would no longer be held up by the necessity of securing the acquiescence of 27 separate member states.
The UK will also be able to reduce tariffs on goods imported from outside the EU where EU tariffs are currently high, which should help to offset the inflationary impact of any potential tariffs on UK-EU trade. Given that the UK’s trade with the rest of the world is growing at a much faster pace than it is with the EU, regaining control of our trade policy offers huge potential for the future trajectory of the UK economy.
Regulations and tax
Another biggie. From forcing us to charge VAT on women’s sanitary items, to preventing the nationalisation of key industries, the EU’s regulatory net has been cast wide indeed. Amusingly, Jeremy Corbyn attempted to scare the public by suggesting that the Tories wanted to use Brexit to turn the UK into a kind of European Singapore. I’m not sure what Jezzer finds so horrifying about Singapore, but given that they have a much higher standard of living than the UK, the low-tax, low-regulation model is certainly one that we should consider pursuing if we are going to make the UK a beacon of economic prosperity on the periphery of a high-tax, high-regulation EU.
Food, farming and fishing
As the UK leaves the EU customs union and single market, it will be free to adjust the tariffs it charges on agricultural goods (the EU currently charges tariffs on agricultural goods imported from outside the EU which are generally much higher than tariffs on non-agricultural goods) and apply different regulatory standards to food imports. This could help to mitigate any increase in the cost of food imported from the EU, as it would lower the cost of food imported from non-EU countries.
Meanwhile, the disentanglement of the UK agricultural sector from the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) offers an opportunity for modernisation and innovation. New Zealand offers an interesting example of a country where a heavily subsidised agricultural sector went through a period of deregulation and greater competition. From 1993 to 2016, productivity in the New Zealand dairy industry – measured in terms of kilograms of milk solids per hectare – increased by 62%, following the abolition of subsidies in 1985. Some believe that a similar experience in the UK could provide the spark for a new entrepreneurial revolution in UK farming.
In fishing, Brexit holds out the prospect of redressing the raw deal Britain gets under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In 2015, for example, EU vessels caught 683,000 tonnes (around £484 million worth of fish) in UK waters, whereas UK vessels caught just 111,000 tonnes of fish (worth around £114 million) in EU waters. While it is likely that the UK will still cede some fishing rights in the trade negotiations with the EU, the UK fishing industry will rightly be looking forward to better times after Brexit.
Immigration is great – so long as it’s managed effectively. The problem arises when people begin to see it as a net negative factor rather than a net positive one. An even greater problem arises when the political class tries to convince people otherwise and resorts to labelling those that disagree with them as racists. An even bigger problem arises when a country can’t control immigration even if it wanted to because it’s a member of a single market that upholds freedom of movement. A points-based immigration system will help to restore public faith in immigration as a force for good.
Good neighbours rather than bad tenants
Although we’re saying goodbye to the EU, we are still Europeans. Henceforth, we shall be working alongside rather than within the EU as we forge our separate yet still intertwined paths.