John Longworth was head of the British Chambers of Commerce, but resigned during the EU referendum to support Brexit. He now co-chairs the Leave Means Leave pressure group. Here he urges the government to be bold in severing ties with Brussels.
In my many meetings with George Osborne he always struck me as a mild Eurosceptic, and for a good while during the referendum campaign he kept a calculated silence, even amidst a blizzard of half truths, exaggerations and untruth that made up the Remainers’ “Project Fear” campaign.
So, I was somewhat surprised when the then-Chancellor emerged with his “killer punch”, the deeply biased and flawed (and, it transpires, quite wrong) Treasury Armageddon report, and of course his punishment Budget.
But all that is history. The government is now committed to Brexit, to fulfilling the democratic will of the people and to getting the best out of it for Britain.
Then enters “flexible Phil” Hammond. Having flexed in the Autumn Statement towards making the UK an enterprise economy, he now flexes again towards Treasury doctrine – that the City must prevail over the people and the wider economy, that the protectionist corporates of the CBI must be cosseted.
Brexit would be watered down and its manifest economic benefits thrown away. Will the Treasury never learn?
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an enterprise economy, to make Britain the best place in the world to do business and to be a beacon of free trade, creating huge economic benefit for our citizens.
And what does the Chancellor do? He swallows the CBI pill, with the velvet appeal of a “smooth Brexit” like drinking chocolate in comparison with the “hard” espresso of a clean Brexit.
“Smooth” is marketing speak for smoke and mirrors. Their Brexit means a slow, partial exit or no exit at all. It means throwing away our golden opportunity: repatriation of our net contribution (an additional 0.7% of GDP), deregulation (0.7% to 1.2% of GDP), trade deals (incalculable benefit) around the world and the removal of tariffs (a massive 4% of GDP).
Their Brexit means partial control of migration at best and continuing rule by the ECJ. These can only be avoided by leaving – and leaving early.
Once we leave the EU we can set about making the UK an enterprise and free trade economy with business-friendly public policy. From this will spring the winners – which businesses will pick themselves – and Britain will be the best place in the world to do business.
What is amazing is just how many erstwhile Remainers are protectionist, do not want free trade and competition, and like the cosseted certainty of a regulated economy, with the comforting barriers to entry and the ability to gain advantage from gaming the system. In short, who like the protectionist EU Internal Market.
Let us hope that the Prime Minister realises all this and takes her chance to do something about it.
20th December, 2016: Heat Street