AHEAD of the 2016 referendum, Brexiteers urged voters to “take back control of our laws, borders and money”.
The majority in favour, often described as “slim”, was 1.3million — bigger than the population of Birmingham, the UK’s second-largest city.
Since then, our Remainer-stuffed Parliament has pulled every trick in the book to keep us as close to the European Union as possible. And now MPs want Britain to stay inside the customs union, the EU’s most important legal construct, while claiming they “still respect the referendum result”.
This is abject nonsense. The customs union is enshrined in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the EU’s legal bedrock. The EU is, in essence, the customs union.
Being inside but nominally outside the EU — as our power-crazed, economically illiterate MPs now demand — is the worst of all worlds.
The UK would then be like Turkey, ensnared within the EU tariff structures but with no say.
EU members would control utterly the trade policy of the world’s fifth-largest economy, determining what goods can enter our country. And we’d keep sending billions of pounds each year to Brussels.
Is that “taking back control of our law, borders and money”? Is that “respecting the referendum result”?
The EU’s protectionist customs union puts a tariff wall around all member states, imposing charges on goods imported into the EU from the rest of the world.
This Common External Tariff (CET) makes imports of clothing, food and footwear, in particular, more expensive — items on which poorer households spend heavily.
So British shoppers often end up paying more, to protect inefficient producers elsewhere in the EU and shielding them from global competition.
Large, powerful EU companies like tariff barriers as they help them to retain business. But that’s at the direct expense of consumers. And the UK suffers most as we’re the only large European economy that does most of our trade outside the EU.
The CET on clothing is around 12 per cent, while on shoes from leading Asian suppliers it’s up at 60 per cent.
EU tariffs also make food more expensive — outside the customs union, grocery bills could fall by up to 20 per cent, says the Policy Exchange think tank.
To add insult to injury, four-fifths of EU tariff revenues collected in the UK each year are sent directly to Brussels.
Over the past eight years, Britain has shelled out £18billion in such tariffs — enough to pay for more than 100,000 extra nurses over that entire period. Poor UK households paying over the odds for non-EU imports have footed much of that bill.
We are told being in the customs union means Britain benefits from the EU’s “60-plus” free-trade agreements with other nations. But fewer than half these deals are in force — and most are with minnows and microstates.
All the EU’s operational trade deals combined cover less than a tenth of the global economy.
The EU is bad at striking trade deals as member states’ interests often conflict — and the French always dig their heels in on agriculture. That’s why, after years of trying, there is no EU free trade agreement with either the US or China and India — the coming economic superpowers.
Britain has more chance of securing valuable agreements negotiating alone, as Switzerland did with China in 2014.
We can cut deals favouring sectors where we are strong, such as services, not skewed towards French and German interests, as EU deals often are.
We are a services giant — the world’s second-largest producer — which is why sizeable nations with EU agreements, such as South Korea and Mexico, say they want bespoke post-Brexit trade deals with us.
Big business lobby groups want Britain to stay in the customs union, as they care more about protecting incumbent, inefficient corporations than democracy.
Yet leaving will boost the UK’s smaller, dynamic firms, as new agreements help them export to the world’s fastest-growing Eastern markets.
And shoppers will also benefit, freed from paying tariffs on global imports, while seeing further price falls as we strike trade deals with leading global economies, deals the protectionist EU has failed to clinch in 60 years of trying.
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