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City AM: A chorus of free trade voices to drown out Remoaner despair

Date: 04 09 2017

A chorus of free trade voices to drown out Remoaner despair

John Longworth

John Longworth is co-chairman of Leave means Leave and former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Like a performance of Handel’s Messiah, all sung by a harmonious choir from the same hymn sheet, we witnessed this weekend the publication of a pamphlet setting out a positive vision for post Brexit Britain – a “New Model Economy” (NME) – designed to make our nation richer, and not a moment too soon.

It encompasses a united chorus of voices, as the pamphlet has been produced by business groups representing a spectrum of political opinion, combined with the steady drum beat of the best macroeconomic brains in the country.

The coming together of Leave Means Leave (a group of which I am proud to co-chair), Labour Leave, and Economists for Free Trade represents a truly visionary grouping of opinion.

Only two weeks ago, we saw the publication of a report by the Economists for Free Trade, calling for a free market, free trade approach to our post-Brexit economy.

It was a compelling clarion call, drowning out the siren voices of hard line Remainers, the rentiers and vested interests, who would rather us be trapped in a limbo economy, which can only ever be a poorer version of what we have today.

The NME incorporates the principles of free trade, but goes much further in its positive prescription for Britain’s future. In contrast, the Remainers continue to talk down our national prospects, and advocate a half-hearted, discordant, and downbeat outcome.

The arch protagonists of the dismal policy of purgatory seem now to be the Labour party.

Like so many of the protectionist cheerleaders of the status quo, Labour is advocating remaining in the Single Market and the Customs Union, the very things that prevent us from having a better economic future.

y contrast, the NME pamphlet promotes a positive vision for the post-Brexit economy and in so doing paints a picture which benefits most of all the voters that Labour have abandoned: the poor and those in the regions outside London and the south east.

The lives of ordinary people will become better as the availability of scarce public services and state support is freed up by the reduction in migrant numbers under this new regime.

The regions will benefit from a strengthening of manufacturing, supported by a competitive currency, more competition, investment in manufacturing, and lower input costs – the latter possible because of the removal of external tariffs.

Of course, the lovers of the status quo are not confined to the “policy wonks” of the establishment, but exist across the hardline Remainers.

This is particularly so among those who prefer protectionism: those who love the EU’s erected barriers to the entry of new competition, who prefer to gobble up – or drown out – the sweet music of enterprise and entrepreneurialism.

Fortunately, the business groups behind the NME initiative are made up of self-made business people, who are not obliged to the establishment, and who represent the true drivers of national economic growth and innovation: entrepreneurs and private business owners.

They are people who embrace change and opportunity, competition and free markets.

A declaration of intent by the government this autumn that the NME is the preferred vision for post-Brexit Britain would both provide much needed certainty for business (as it can be implemented unilaterally), and simultaneously grant enormous leverage to the government in the further negotiations with the EU.

Clinging to hopes of staying in the Single Market and Customs Union would have exactly the reverse effect.

It is vital that the government take up the NME if we want to be richer as a nation after March 2019 than we are now – richer by up to as much as seven per cent of GDP.

A wealthier nation, also boosting the prospects of the poor and the regions is a sweet symphony: Alleluia to that.

September 4th, 2017: City AM