Friday, 3 March 2017

Brexit is About Optimism and Openness, My Lords

Take a look at the video above, of the newly announced Range Rover Velar. It is a thing of beauty is it not. It is also a sign of great confidence. This is a British car company that is thriving, booming even. It is doing so by embracing its Britishness (in benign Indian ownership) and by using cutting edge technology and engineering knowhow to make world leading products and to do so with design panache that has left motoring journalists and enthusiasts salivating.

In the last couple of weeks we have had the spectacle of two ex prime ministers making spectacles of themselves by telling the British people that we got it wrong last June and that we are on a road to disaster. And yet what evidence do they have for this? It is just more project fear, because the real evidence of the real world suggests that it is they who are mistaken.

Because in the real world the economy is growing, exports are up, consumers are spending and most importantly Britain remains a magnet for inward investment. Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, Nissan, Tata, Amazon, Merrill Lynch, Boeing and the newly floated Snap are all investing in Britain, basing themselves in Britain. And homegrown companies like the aforementioned Jaguar Land Rover and McLaren the racing team turned supercar manufacturer are producing cutting edge products to lead the world. Dyson this week announced a huge new campus style research and development centre to create world leading technology and software.

Which is why all of the carping and criticism from the vanquished remainers sounds so dissonant. Britain has every reason to be confident about our leaving the EU. Seriously, what do they imagine will happen, even if we leave and have to do so by a most unlikely hard Brexit?  We will still trade with the EU, still have close ties with the EU. But this is why we will get a deal with them. They may be angry with us for leaving but it has actually forced them to be more realistic about themselves. They are even talking about loosening the arrangement and maybe making it a two speed Europe. In other words precisely what Britain was asking for this time last year but was refused on a supposed point of principle. Its why we will get our deal. Once again we have been shown to be right about the direction of Europe and have a lot of people on our side.

And that is why the ridiculous posturing of the House of Lords on EU citizens resident in the UK was so counterproductive. Nobody is saying that they will not be granted the right to remain in the UK. But it cannot be guaranteed until we receive reciprocity. By the same logic we should say to Europe that they can have tariff free access to British markets without receiving the same offer in return. A negotiation is not going to have a good outcome if our negotiators have someone on our own side standing behind them telling their opponents what cards we have.

The issue of citizens rights is a complex one that the grandstanding peers ignored. There are all kinds of subsidiary rights that must be negotiated like access to welfare, the NHS, schools and other services. It is why the Government has been right to hold out on this. It does not mean we are using citizens as bargaining chips, it means we are waiting for an offer from the other party. Unilateral declarations may make preening politicians feel good about themselves but they achieve nothing and make the job of Theresa May more difficult. Angela Merkel has said no offer will be forthcoming on citizens rights until Article 50 is invoked. Then the talking will commence. So let's stop trying to amend a simple enabling act and get it passed.

This does not count as playing hardball in my book, it is simple common sense when embarking on a complex negotiation. But we should be prepared to play hardball if necessary. Cut taxes, slash at regulations, tell the EU that we will start taking responsibility for distributing funds currently sent from Brussels and so will start reducing our contributions accordingly. Announce the intention of turning Britain into a low tax, low regulation, business friendly offshore centre of excellence. Then watch the companies come flooding in. And further announce that we will be making no further contributions to EU budgets whatsoever once we leave. We are under no obligation and getting back the freedom to spend our money as we see fit is one of the reasons we voted to leave.

Britain has nothing to be afraid of with Brexit as events keep demonstrating. The only thing we need fear is that has-been politicians mess it up with their inane interventions and virtue signalling.

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