What’s life going to look like after leaving the EU?

Paul Clapham expresses his view on life after the EU

When you read this we will have officially left the EU for good or ill, so what are you doing to take advantage of the Brexiteers’ big promises? If you are like most small business owners the honest answer is somewhere close to ‘um, nothing’.

The New York Times, probably a newspaper that rarely if ever accompanies your eggs and bacon of a morning took a hard look at the prospects we Brits face and decided it didn’t much like them, despite making painful efforts at balance. I picked the NYT because it is serious and unencumbered with pro or anti brexit views.

So, OK Boris, can you and your team deliver the Brexit promise? At the outset things don’t look very promising, because there is no clear game-plan for everybody to buy into and boy do we need that. A clear agenda is a necessity and quite simply you don’t have one. The argument that the government is consciously avoiding grandstanding is transparent hogwash and we all know it. Please, please do not leave us to another four years of uncertainty while you and other politicians work out the details.

That possibility genuinely concerns me because when Canada and South Korea put together a trade agreement which was signed in 2014, agreeing the terms had taken them five years. Five! And there were only two nations involved, both of whom were mustard keen on the idea. Britain by contrast has to negotiate with 27 countries in Europe, some of which are no longer our biggest fans.

There are still two cases being argued. Boris Johnson and his supporters regard Brexit as the moment of liberation when Britain, unshackled from the bureaucracy of Brussels, can seize the day, grasping economic advantage on all sides backed by a vigorous political structure.

Remainers, meanwhile, continue to regret what has been lost. They fear that Britain will decline from a position of power and influence within Europe to one of economic mediocrity.

They fear the disruptive change of Brexit, rather than relishing its benefits.

To my eye there is a large slice of ‘maybe’ in both of those arguments. Economists see a decade or more of lost opportunities for growth – worrying -, whereas the government sees a nation carrying all before it as other countries queue to do business with us and to form trade agreements that span the globe and attract inward investment – invigorating. (see above proviso of the Canada - South Korea trade agreement.)

I would suggest to the Conservative government that their first task is to cosy up to the United States. If we are going to have a trade deal with anybody, that’s the nation which would top most people’s list. To that end, now is a rotten time to start taxing America’s digital giants, popular as that would be in Britain. So Boris, don’t just rely on your personal relationship with President Trump, make nice to all of them.

One of the most telling points I have read in favour of leaving is that Britain had opted out of a number of elements of membership, notably the single currency. If you are a half-hearted partner, there’s no point in being in it at all. Does that remind you of the logic for marital divorce?

Patrick Minford, a professor of economics at Cardiff University, says that it’s all about free trade: “Everyone talks about the EU as if it is a bastion of free trade and it’s not. We want to trade freely with everyone and that includes the United States.” Fair point.

There will be no carte blanche to sell anything we like to Europe. We will have to follow their rules without being at the table when those rules are drafted. There is also a transition period until the end of December 2020.

Do not make the error of believing that being a retailer protects you from Brexit’s impact. I have read time and again that ‘this will affect everybody’.

Business owners are citing as key benefits less red tape and fewer regulations. Seems to me, I’ve heard this one before. This time around it really ought to be true, since there’s nobody to say no. Financial and legislative independence come next. Memo to Rishi Sunak: how about some big cuts to business taxes to promote inward investment

I keep reading uncertain weasel words, such as “it is our understanding that EU nationals will be entitled to continue working in the UK”. That’s hardly an unequivocal yes or no, which is what people need.

Will Calais and the NI be crammed with trucks full of essential goods for the NHS, our shops and online deliveries or is that all a piece of Remainer scare-mongering? Again how do we know? Nobody ever left the EU before.

Most notably, the big excuse has disappeared. Blaming Brussels/the EU is no longer an option. Our politicians will have to take it on the chin if anything goes pear-shaped. I wonder how many understand that.

  

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