When Napoleon Bonaparte brought France under his control a little over two hundred years ago, he came up with a simple plan for dealing with the pesky British, who were holding out against domination by a foreign power. He devised the Continental System, an effective blockade on Britain, preventing them from trading with Europe. He felt sure this would lead to Britain’s economic collapse.
Unwittingly, le Petit Caporal provided Britain with the impetus it needed to kick start a new golden era of global trade. Cut off from its immediate neighbours, Britain forged powerful trading links to what are now Commonwealth countries including India and Canada.
The campaign group I co-chair, Leave Means Leave, is confident such hostility towards trade with Britain by Europe will not be repeated now over Brexit. It is manifestly in both sides’ interests to strike a free trade deal with the UK and carry on trading abundantly when we leave the single market and customs union.
However, we should remind ourselves that we are far from being without friends beyond the borders of the European continent.
Today the Australian foreign secretary, Julie Bishop, has said Australian citizens should have equal rights to come and work in the UK as EU citizens post Brexit. The spirit of her remarks are to be welcomed.