Don’t let the Brexit wreckers take us back to medieval times: freedom from any Customs Union is vital
By John Longworth and John Mills
The recent actions of their Lordships is a precursor to what is going to be a major battleground in respect of Brexit and is part of a determined attempt by Remainers to force the UK into some form of Customs Union (CU) arrangement with the EU.
Those trying to wreck the Brexit process and to undermine our negotiating position with the EU are using every means to deploy the Trojan Horse that the CU represents, ranging from amendments to Parliamentary Bills to shamelessly leveraging the Northern Ireland border question and manipulating the hapless government of the Republic, claiming that the only solution is a CU. Is this a bit overstated?
There obviously is a problem in respect of the Irish border, partly of our own making, but there are solutions an example of which is set out below. There are also legitimate concerns regarding the impact of a CU on the UK-EU trade, but these are misguided or overblown.
Clearly, if we were to Leave the EU without a deal it might be possible for EU member states to mendaciously create problems at the border. This would be against international treaties and would not be widespread. The UK government would need contingency measures to handle this, including arrangements to export via other routes and may need to deploy retaliatory measures.
We have the great good advantage of a massive trade deficit with our near neighbours in the EU, so any such measures would be seriously against their own interests. In any event, we are very likely to achieve a trade arrangement which would resolve this. For example, the EU have offered a Canada style deal. Undermining the government’s negotiating position by insisting that “any deal is better than no deal” is the surest way of making sure that there is a bad outcome – but perhaps this is the objective of Remainers.
One alarming factor in all this is an apparent lack of understanding amongst Parliamentarians of the nature and importance of not being in the CU. Hopefully this article will help to lift the scales from their eyes.
Imagine this. A country in which the relatively poor, working people are taxed the most in order to provide money to rich country landowners so that they can maintain, in some cases unproductive but manicured, estates and in others, inefficient and overpriced production. To add insult to injury, those same hardworking taxpayers are also paying more for their food and consumer goods than they need, as further taxes are levied on imports in order to protect the inefficient landowners, many of whom do not even live on our islands, but have estates in other EU countries.
This is not medieval England, it is a story of Britain today, trapped in a protectionist EU Customs Union, which makes the taxes paid and the cost of living of the “many” working people much higher than they need be, to provide more wealth for a privileged “few”. You couldn’t make it up! Unfortunately it is a stark reality and those who want to keep us in a Customs Union are guilty of favouring the establishment few over the taxpaying many.
Not only does the CU damage the people of Britain, it also seeks to impoverish the already achingly poor of the developing world by denying them a market and the opportunity to develop trade, which would do so much to lift these countries out of poverty. It is trade, not aid, that will provide long-term, sustainable benefit, as has been shown by the improvements around the world that globalisation has afforded. The classic example is that of coffee whereby the CU does not allow producers outside the EU to process coffee and benefit from the added value, but instead restricts processing to countries like Germany.
The post Brexit, selective and unilateral removal by the UK of external tariffs currently imposed by the EU, would solve these problems, lower the cost of living, reduce taxes and boost the British economy, to the benefit of all. It would also help reduce poverty around the world. All things that Remainers apparently don’t want.
Of course, this does not stop us simultaneously supporting sustainable agriculture in the U.K. at a fraction of the cost of the current arrangements.
On top of all this, continued participation in the CU would prevent the UK from striking trade deals with countries around the world, including the developing nations of the Commonwealth, one of the key benefits of Brexit. In fact, without taking control of our borders and money (eg taxes), which the CU prevents, we will not have fulfilled the will of the electorate and Brexit will not actually have happened.
This is equally true of Ireland. There must inevitably be a border on the island of Ireland as there is now, but it need not feel like a border and this issue has been shamelessly manipulated by Remainers and others who feel they can gain advantage from it, not least the EU itself.
Neither the Republic nor the UK are members of the Schengen zone and both check the passports of those coming from other EU member states. Yet, right now, there are no checks on people at the NI border with the Republic. So long as both Ireland and the UK continue to check persons coming to their islands why should the arrangements between the two not continue? Only mendaciousness on the part of the EU and culpable foolishness on the part of Ireland, would dictate a different outcome. All other border controls can be fulfilled through intelligence-led activity and the control of access to welfare and jobs.
When it comes to the movement of Irish goods and the CU, it is a fact that goods move around the globe largely without physical checks. The World Bank has reported that, on average, only 2% of goods are checked at borders worldwide. An intelligent system of pre-notification coupled with technology, similar to the London Congestion Charge arrangements, can lead to all but frictionless movement of trucks and people. Only those with something to hide or who are involved in criminal activity should have any concern.
It is quite astonishing that Remainers across the political spectrum are prepared to countenance the most perverse effects of continuing engagement in a CU. Those politicians, including those in the House of Lords, who are agitating for this should be ashamed of themselves, wanting to make poorer their many fellow citizens while boosting the wealth of narrow vested interests of the few. At the same time, they are impoverishing people in developing nations and encouraging totally unnecessary conflict with our valued neighbours on the island of Ireland.
Furthermore, the CU encourages inefficiency and is part of the productivity conundrum making us all poorer as a consequence and reducing the resources available for our vital public services.