It’s now or never to secure a hard Brexit. Conservative ministers take note

JOHN LONGWORTH

Time is running out for those who campaigned for Leave to put up or shut up

The strident and concerted attempt by the Remainer establishment, including the media, to overthrow the democratic will of the peoplehas been shocking and has revealed a rottenness at the heart of the way our country is run.

As a consequence there is massive disillusionment, despair and fury among rank and file Brexit supporters, Labour and Conservative, and the scale of the backlash will be unimaginable – albeit the form of this is not clear and could be perverse. 

The Government has been duped at every turn by a bullying and determined EU backed by Germany, itself determined to pursue the EU project at any cost. This latter fact became very apparent to me when I visited Berlin at the beginning of 2017.

It was crystal clear that the German government was backed by the whole of the German establishment, in the view that the “project” (or, as Nicholas Ridley with prescience said, “the German racket”) was so important to Germany, both politically and economically, that the failure of businesses across the continent as a result of a tough line on Brexit would be viewed merely as collateral damage.

No businessperson would ever have approached the EU negotiations without being prepared to walk away from the table. By saying that our objective was a close and special relationship, the UK gave the EU all the negotiating power. By signing away 40 billion euros as a gift we lost our leverage.

Even the “no deal is better than a bad deal” mantra, which the PM adopted and then dropped following the disastrous general election, represented hollow words given that no preparations were or have been seriously pursued for a WTO world trade option, a “just leave” approach. 

Of course, the Chancellor and the Treasury are highly culpable in this being “Remain Central” within government, and seeing the entire Brexit process as one of damage limitation rather than opportunity. It was a great mistake that Philip Hammond was not sacked a long time ago. 

From the very beginning Britain should have adopted the approach of a WTO global trade position from March 2019, with no transition, and actively pursued vigorous preparations for this, while at the same time facilitating an open door to free trade negotiations with the EU. No money should have been offered without a trade deal.

This is what I and Leave means Leave said at the time. What happened was pathetic and lamentable, as history will reflect when being written – provided it is not by then being written in German. We are where we are, and it is not too late, but we must act now. 

During the referendum campaign, the Vote Leave Campaign concentrated on the political aspects of Brexit, and it was primarily for these reasons that people voted to leave. Many knew that leaving could come at a cost, but controlling our borders, money and laws – in other words “liberty”– was worth that cost.

As chairman of the Vote Leave business council, I and my dedicated band of businesspeople around the country, in cooperation with the economists of what is now Economists for Free Trade, put forward the economic arguments for Brexit, countering the lies and propaganda of “Project Fear”. We believed, and still do, that Britain can be better off outside the EU.

From an economic standpoint, the Leave side always said that there would be short term disruption, but that this creative disruption will lead to substantial medium to long term benefits. The closer we get to the date of leaving, without the necessary preparations, the greater the short term disruption will be, the greater the gravitational pull of the EU. That is the game that the EU have been playing and that, shamefully, the approach the fifth column of Remainers have supported.

If we allow this to continue we will become a vassal state of the EU, with Brexit in name only and unable to escape the gravitational pull of the EU without a major explosion. We must act now. 

During the campaign, I also sat on the Vote Leave campaign committee with Brexit-supporting ministers who are now in the Cabinet. These Ministers staked their political careers on Brexit and must know that this analysis of the abyss into which we are falling is true. 

In March 2016 I resigned my position as head of the British Chambers of Commerce and forsook my livelihood to fight the referendum. Following the referendum, I have continued to volunteer as co-chairman of Leave means Leave to ensure the British people get the Brexit they voted for. I expect ministers who campaigned with me to show the same resolve and courage. 

I hope it will be quickly demonstrated that this is unnecessary as the PM adopts a new tough stance with the EU in the upcoming negotiations and is determined to walk away, if necessary declaring in June for a WTO exit to take place March 2019. If she is not, we are very likely to get the worst possible deal for Britain, truly “Brexit in name only” and there will have been committed a massive fraud on the electorate.

I am not holding my breath, and nor should ministers.

June 15th, 2018: Telegraph