Comments made by the head of HMRC, John Thompson, created a feeding frenzy amongst the Remainer broadcast media, given the “shocking” news that leaving the Customs Union and adopting a maximum facilitation approach would cost British business up to £20 billion per annum in the provision of export documentation. This revelation even saw the British Chambers of Commerce declaring the news to be “shocking” in feigned concern especially given that the Chambers of Commerce actually make money out of this very process of producing export documentation, a system which currently covers the majority of UK exports (57% of our exports go to the non EU countries) and imports. The big difference being that we have a trade surplus with the rest of the world and a thumping trade deficit we the EU. Clearly export documentation does not hold back business from doing business.
It should also be noted that documentation is linked to the movement of goods, whereas 90% of the UK economy and half of exports are services.
Of course most export documentation these days is online rather than physical and, on average, only 2% of goods crossing the frontiers of developed countries are inspected according to the World Bank.
What is surprising about this old news trotted out by John Thompson is that everyone seems to have forgotten the facts and why we fought for Brexit in the first place. I guess two years of Leavers banging our collective heads against the establishment brick wall, a wall built to frustrate our exit from the EU, has caused some memory loss.
It is axiomatic that Brexit will cost some money and will create some disruption but the benefits of Brexit will far outweigh the costs.
The primary reason for Brexit was to take control of our law making and jurisdiction, to control our borders and our money. Thus we will be able, as a nation, to make choices about such things as which laws we want and have our courts make decisions consistent with the norms and values of our society. We can make choices about how much and what type of immigration we want and what we spend our tax money on. All of these things are facets of “sovereignty”. They are the reasons two thirds of Parliamentary constituencies in the UK voted for Brexit and in order to achieve them we must leave the Single Market, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Customs Union, as these are the things that substantially make up and the EU. These matters are primarily not economic and even therefore, if there were a net cost to leaving the EU it would still be worth it and would be far less than our forbears paid in blood and treasure for liberty.
Happily however, I have always believed that there would be a considerable economic benefit from leaving the EU, provided the government adopt the correct policies. This requires the government, especially the Chancellor, to treat leaving the EU not as a damage limitation exercise but as a massive opportunity.
To read John Longworth’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.