A strong case can be made that the UK economy is in a unique position within the European Economic Area (EEA). Unique, because its membership is to the categorical financial benefit of all other members.
Other countries gain either through exports to or via businesses located within Britain. Were the UK to be sent outside the EEA – because it is leaving the EU – it would be at the cost of nation after nation. This fact should expose the absurdity of the idea that it should be the UK which pays to be allowed into the trade bloc.
Having voted to leave the EU, the UK can free itself from its costly technocracy. Far from this heavily laden bureaucracy being of value to the UK economy, it has for the most part been a hindrance.
It has introduced obstacles to our unilaterally signing free trade agreements with fast-growing nations around the world. The technocrats have also imposed restrictions that have made life in the UK more expensive than it need be, from the Common Agricultural Policy to general red tape. If there are to be transfer payments for Britain’s continued presence within the EEA once it departs the EU, there is a powerful argument that these should be made to the UK, not by it.
There is of course a clamour for the government to reveal what its Brexit negotiating strategy is. While there are those demanding “we” show our hand across all Parliamentary parties, they are almost exclusively confined to Remainers. As a Leaver, I would say this: I object to showing the EU 27 “our” hand. After all, even when you hold all the aces you should still keep a poker face!
Keeping with the gaming metaphor, my latest research, released today, is an attempt to show why the odds for a soft Brexit are not 27 to one against, but 26 to one on. The reason is that all but one of the nations across the EU has a significant self-interest in a conciliatory Brexit.
Some will claim that I am exaggerating the strength of the UK’s negotiating position by overstating the importance of its economic wellbeing to those across the EU 27. To those suggesting I view the UK with some sort of economic dysmorphia, my reply is that the facts are incontrovertible.
In 2015, the UK recorded a near £100bn trade deficit with the EU 27, importing almost a quarter of a trillion pounds worth of goods. By the end of that year, the UK had issued almost 5m National Insurance numbers to workers who had arrived from across the EU 27, over 600,000 in 2015 alone. In many cases, across the EU 27, one-tenth of the prime age population is settled in the UK.
Through the course of 2015, Britons made over 50m visits into the EU 27; some to do business and a great many for leisure (accounting for over one quarter of all Spanish and 40 per cent of all Cypriot tourism). Between 2009 and 2015, UK GDP expanded in real terms by over one-tenth, thereby lifting the fortunes of EU 27-owned businesses active within it. Also in 2015, many economically beleaguered nations across the EU 27 were grateful for the presence of the 1.2m British expats settled within their borders.
I make much of the sizeable number of EU 27 nationals issued with National Insurance numbers and now working across the UK, whose continued good fortunes in work here rely upon the UK economy exiting the EU with the least possible disruption.
Let me say unequivocally that, in extracting the UK from the Single Labour Market, there is absolutely no read-through that those EU nationals already within Britain should lose their right to remain. We are looking forward to a new relationship with the EU 27 – one which should not be seen as retrospective.