Britain must scale the EU cliffs to a freer, more prosperous future

Brian Monteith
Triggering Article 50 - White Cliffs Of Dover
Are people who worry that businesses will fall off a cliff edge looking at the problem the wrong way round? (Source: Getty)

As is so often the case, those that blurt out the cliche that Brexit without a transitionary-based deal will see UK businesses fall off a cliff edge are looking at the problem the wrong way round.

With their sentiments already biased towards being inside the EU’s restrictive Single Market and obscene Customs Union, they cannot see that there is no cliff edge for the UK – for we are at the foot of the cliff already, being dashed on the rocks by absurd regulations, restrictive practices, and high taxes we do not need to pay.

We need to bypass the gold-plated tank traps of regulations on the shoreline and scale the EU’s daunting sheer cliff tops of protectionism.

Read more: Why is the UK is still bending over backwards to please Brussels?

When we reach the top, we shall discover new sunlit pastures of open trade with the whole world. At last our entrepreneurs, industrialists and market makers will be free to excel without hindrance at what we do best – and to invite those that do better than us to sell without taxation or political obstruction.

It is by growing international trade through opening markets that we have ensured the Malthusian doom-mongers – who predicted wholesale death, widespread famine, disease and poverty – have been proven wrong. Open international trade not just allows but positively encourages new innovation, investment and inventions, helping the poorest to benefit most, as the economic and demographic evidence shows.

Malthusians run the EU, believing we must restrict markets to ration trade. They exclude whole continents from benefitting by adding value to their cocoa or coffee, which they instead have to sell at rock-bottom prices for processing beyond the EU’s castellated fortifications of tariffs, quotas and regulations.

You can tell that the sentiments of the CBI, IoD and other so-called business leaders lie with the interests of the EU’s 27 members and align with those who wish to protect existing markets from open competition, rather than help UK businesses expand – for they continually look through the telescope from the wrong end.

When they talk of business life without an EU trade deal resulting in lorry queues at Dover, they ignore that those trucks will be more often foreign than British – for they travel both ways and the EU exports more goods to us than we do to them.

They forget that, by the same reasoning, the inconvenience of any massive truck parks must be greater on the continent – and conveniently ignore the fact that the vast majority of our trade leaves by our container ports anyway.

Those that believe in the cliff edge theory do not understand how, on the day we leave the EU, our government will be able to change what is subject to VAT and, through using WTO tariffs, reduce the cost of many goods that the EU currently makes expensive – and vice versa.

They also conveniently forget that the EU cannot introduce punitive tariffs against the UK alone – we will have the same access that is already enjoyed by the US, China, and others that do not have a trade deal, without having to pay for the privilege.

Yes, there might be a need for adjustment by some exporters, but we already comply with EU regulations and in most cases any tariffs have already been offset by the devaluation of sterling against the euro.

No business should face a cliff edge if they do their due diligence and look to establish fresh routes to markets old and new – and if that diligence has been ignored, is that business being best served by its managers?

There is no room for complacency as we scale the EU cliff; any acceptance of the EU as a safety net for easy trade must end. Our business leaders need to inspire everyone to see what the worldwide opportunities are, what the obstacles to achieving those aspirations might be and how to overcome, or avoid them entirely.

The EU leaders continue to play poker with our hesitant and divided government because they know the opposition would fold if given a seat at the table.

In truth, they fear the UK having no deal because when we make a success of it, the whole edifice of the Single Market and Customs Union will crumble into the sea.

A transition to a deal is a chimera, for there can be no transition to our destination when we do not know where or what the destination is. Instead, we should prepare for WTO rules and if a deal is then offered we can consider if it is better than what lies beyond the cliff.

Read more: Read: MPs letter to Zuckerberg demanding info on Russia Brexit meddling

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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