Forget the scaremongering that so often accompanies debate about Britain’s EU membership. Leaving the European Union could be a win-win for the UK. We could have more international influence, create more trade and jobs, and regain sovereign control over our own laws and borders.
These are the advantages that would flow from the Global Britain Free Trade option for Brexit, recommended today by the think tank Global Britain after careful consideration of the four main possible Brexit scenarios – all of which would be better than the status quo of unreformed EU membership.
Under this Free Trade option, the UK would become a leader in international free trade by adopting zero tariffs on all imports and by operating under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. We would be the largest zero tariff economy in the world. Our relationship with the EU would be the same as other major trading nations, such as Australia, the US, China and Japan, in that we would have no formal trade agreement. But in practice we would be even better placed. For the UK could unilaterally abolish its import tariffs to the whole world (including EU members), thus reducing our import costs.
This option would have several other major advantages. By acting as a role model, we would encourage other countries to follow our lead in becoming a truly free trading nation. As a bonus, we wouldn’t have to pay our multi billion pound annual EU membership fee either.
We’d have more influence, not less. By regaining our seat on the WTO, which we gave up in 1973 on joining the EEC, we would have more say in global trade talks. We would also have a direct seat on numerous other international trade bodies that operate above the EU.
Britain would enjoy more jobs and trade, not less, as we would be able to negotiate UK trade agreements globally. Export growth and inward investment would accelerate, and we could maximise our Commonwealth leadership.
Sovereign control and accountability would return to Westminster. Currently, over 64 per cent of laws and regulations are forced on the UK economy by the EU. Under our Free Trade option, the City can grow as the global centre of financial excellence, sensibly regulated and lowly taxed, without having damaging EU costs and regulations forced upon it by envious continental politicians.
Global Britain supports immigration, but by regaining control of our borders, we can determine the right skills and numbers required to help grow our economy, plan for this growth, and draw people to the UK at our choice.
It’s clear that the status quo is deeply problematic. There is also increasing independent evidence that we could become more prosperous if we chose Brexit.
Last week, Open Europe calculated that, so long as we had the right deregulated, pro-business policies, the UK economy could be more successful outside the EU. Business for Britain has said that an unreformed EU will hold the UK back from greater economic growth and prosperity compared with leaving. Last year, the mayor of London’s chief economic adviser Dr Gerard Lyons reported that, with a pro-business approach, London could have better economic outcomes by leaving than if it stayed in an unreformed EU.
The Free Trade option would also be superior to the other three Brexit scenarios we considered: the Norwegian, Swiss, and the Canadian options.
The Norwegian option means leaving the EU but remaining a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). We would therefore stay in the EU’s so-called “Single Market” but outside the common bureaucracy covering agriculture, fisheries, justice, trade, foreign affairs and monetary union. We would pay only a fraction of the £14.8bn annual net EU membership cost. However, we would not have control over our borders and would still be subject to many EU regulations.
The Swiss option means leaving the EU and EEA, but rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). We would have all the advantages of the Norwegian option (we would have access to the EEA through EFTA), but enjoy greater independence.
The Canadian option means independence from the EU, EEA and EFTA, but using the statutory two-year negotiating period provided by the Lisbon Treaty to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU.
The problem with all three is that the EU’s leadership and others will say that these arrangements will not be possible without EU consent – and that it won’t be forthcoming. So while each is preferable to continued membership of a protectionist customs union that has no serious intent to reform, only the Global Britain Free Trade option would put us truly back in control of our own destiny as a large global trading nation. After all, no one can stop the UK from slashing its tariffs to zero.