Those businesses which are pressing for the UK to stay in the Customs Union (in fact trying to reverse Brexit) are largely the 8% of businesses which export to the EU, representing just 13% of our economy. It is an example of the “tail wagging the dog” on a grand scale.
I cannot agree with these businesses which have not grasped the huge economic benefits which will flow if the Government properly embraces Brexit and stops treating the process of the leaving the EU as a damage limitation exercise. There are many business people who have understood this and are quietly optimistic and enthusiastic about Brexit. Of course the ones resisting change always shout loudest.
One thing that both the Luddites of the CBI and enthusiastic innovators agree on is that there is a desperate need for certainty in respect of the future shape of government policy and the nature of the post-Brexit economy.
This can be overstated; after all, we live in an uncertain world where the forces acting on business are arguably much greater than Brexit and the EU itself is hardly stable. It was ever thus when we look back through history: world wars, regional wars like Vietnam, oil crises, financial melt downs, strikes etc.
However, in order that business can plan and assess investment choices, it helps to have a picture of the tax and spend environment in which they will be operating. So far the Government – and the Chancellor in particular – has been entirely irresponsible in stoking the perception in business that there is no certainty and by resisting the illustration of the post-Brexit world.
This has been partly a consequence of the inability of senior politicians in Cabinet to agree on the policies they wish to adopt, exacerbated by the fifth column in our political class who are in cahoots with a foreign power, the EU, and have undermined the national interest.
With just nine months to go until we formally leave the EU, it is high time that this week the Government decide and describe the nature of our future.
The Prime Minster has hitherto obfuscated when faced with division and dissent. She has hidden in obscurity. She has produced more fudge than Farrah’s toffee shop in Harrogate. No more. As a consequence, Mrs May has survived. It is difficult to take issue with fudge.
But there is more at stake than the survival of Mrs May as Prime Minister, There is the small matter of the future of our country and the economic health of our nation.
Decisiveness, clarity and decision-making are now vital, not just for business planning but for the future of the Conservative Party and the Government – a Government elected on a manifesto commitment to leave the EU.
The Prime Minister campaigned on a platform of leaving the Single Market, the Customs Union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice – and these were her stated red lines. She said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, a phrase coined by the Campaign Group Leave means Leave. And the Prime Minister said Brexit means Brexit.
These matters need to be reinforced and clarified so that business can plan. The post-Brexit policies and economy that will flow from these must be set out and enthusiastically explained and pursued. If they are not, the Conservative Party – and in particular the Prime Minister – will have committed a fraud on the electorate, and will reap the whirlwind.
The Government should make it clear that in March 2019 we will adopt WTO global trade, seek trade arrangements around the world starting with the ‘Anglosphere’ and our friends in the Commonwealth, while offering the EU a Canada-style trade arrangement (should they wish to have one). No money should be forthcoming unless and until we have a trade deal.
We should take control of our money (including trade), our borders (including immigration) and our laws (including jurisdiction) because this is what 17.4 million people voted for in the largest plebiscite in history, representing two thirds of UK parliamentary constituencies and three quarters of those in England and Wales.
Whatever is decided at Chequers on Friday, there is now no hiding place for the Prime Minister. Fudge is not an option. I hope the outcome will be sweet, but it needs to be hard boiled.
To read John Longworth’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.