A letter signed by 25 prominent Brexiteers, including senior Tory MPs, has urged the Prime Minister to embrace “no deal” as a positive step for Britain and start preparing for life outside the EU on World Trade Organisation rules.
The senior figures from politics, business, economics, law, science and the military call for “decisive action” to dispel the “highly damaging” levels of uncertainty facing businesses across the country.
The letter, organised by Leave Means Leave, sets out how the UK economy can benefit from a clean break from talks if the UK has enough time to prepare.
It is signed by senior politicians including former cabinet ministers Lord Lawson, Peter Lilley, John Redwood MP and Owen Paterson MP and Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer.
But with Leave Means Leave representing more than 50 Tory MPs the letter represents a serious ultimatum to Mrs May at a time when her future has been under scrutiny.
Other signatories include business leaders including Tim Martin, John Mills, Richard Tice and John Longworth as well as prominent economists Professor Patrick Minford and Roger Bootle.
Professor Angus Dalgleish, one of Britain’s leading medical researchers; former senior military figures Major-General Julian Thompson, Professor Gwythian Prins and Rear-Admiral Roger Lane-Nott of Veterans for Britain; and Martin Howe QC the chairman of Lawyers for Britain have also given it their backing.
While noting that Mrs May’s speech in Florence was “warm and generous” and that the Government “has been more than patient” towards the EU, the letter argues that a clear line in should be drawn in the sand.
In the event of no progress at the European Council, the UK should formally declare that it is assuming that we will be subject to WTO rules from 30 March 2019.
The authors of the letter argue that an ultimatum is needed as the EU institutions currently “do not believe that the UK would be prepared to go to WTO rules”.
The effect would be to give the EU an opportunity to reconsider the glacial pace of negotiations, break the current deadlock and allow the UK to prepare for exit in March 2019.
The letter also points out that early notification of the UK’s intention to operate on WTO rules from the end of March 2019 would mean that the UK and business in particular could “concentrate our resources on resolving administrative issues” and prepare to “crystallise the economic opportunities” of Brexit.
The letter points out that the “United States and India do not pay to sell to the EU but successfully trade from outside”, so Britain should be able to do the same.
Economists for Britain has described no deal as “the best deal” and estimated that operating under WTO rules could be worth £150 billion a year in growth for British GDP.
The signatories argue that announcing the UK’s intention to move to WTO rules from the end of March 2019 would allow it “to negotiate free trade agreements across the globe”.
The UK’s freedom to set its own regulations, conduct its own trade policy and lower tariffs would significantly benefit consumers as “the price of imports such as food will fall”.
The major intervention comes as the European Council meets today and tomorrow to consider whether to progress Brexit negotiations onto the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU.
October 19th, 2017: Express