Lacking support from the Democratic Unionist Party, Theresa May’s “last chance” vote was bound to fail.
The Northern Ireland party’s refusal to back her means we face the danger of a long delay — resulting in a much softer Brexit or no Brexit at all.
Soft Brexit means Britain stays in the EU’s single market and the customs union. Is that really less damaging than a clean break, as we’re so often told?
Inside the single market, our laws stay under European Court of Justice jurisdiction.
We still make big annual payments to Brussels and retain “freedom of movement rules. Calling that “Brexit” makes a mockery of the 2016 referendum result.
The economic benefits of the single market are, anyway, wildly overstated. All UK firms, including the 95 per cent that don’t export to the EU, must comply with the expensive EU rules.
The single market in services barely exists — severely penalizing the UK, the world’s second-largest services exporter.
We don’t need to be in the single market to trade with Europe. The US conducts hundreds of billions of dollars of EU trade every year. We can do the same.
If the single market is so great, why is the UK’s trade with the EU shrinking and our non-EU trade expanding? Why do we trade more with the rest of the world?
The EU’s customs union is also wrongly presented as economic heaven. But it means the UK charges tariffs on imports from outside the EU. So British shoppers pay more for a range of imports, including food and clothing, to shield uncompetitive producers in other EU states.
Some 80 per cent of these tariffs are then sent to Brussels — billions of pounds each year.
The customs union also stops Britain striking trade deals with nations outside the EU — four-fifths of the global economy.
As the centre of economy gravity shifts decisively east, it is vital that Britain engages more with the world’s fastest-growing and most populous markets.
Nations acting alone have secured far more important trade deals, covering a much bigger share of the global economy. In 2013, Switzerland struck a trade deal with China — so can we.
The narrative that Soft Brexit — or no Brexit at all — makes economic sense has been shaped by the same establishment voices who told us, back in 2016, that simply voting to leave the EU would spark “an immediate and profound economic shock”. They were wrong then and wrong now.
A Clean Brexit, in contrast, outside the EU’s main legal constructs means Britain would thrive — precisely why Brussels doesn’t want it to happen.
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