Remaining in the customs union is Brexit in name only

JOHN LONGWORTH

Remember the scene in The Sound Of Music where the Von Trapp family slip across the frontier to Switzerland while singing? Well, contrary to the assertion of the anti-Brexit lobby, goods and people can move across borders just as smoothly after we leave the EU customs union, provided the Brussels autocrats aren’t allowed to dictate our future. In fact, the current border of Switzerland with the EU is a very good example of this.

Switzerland is not part of the much-vaunted customs union, but goods and people move smoothly across its borders every day. Three times as much, in goods per head of population, as the UK exports to the EU goes in and out of the EU, and the equivalent of a full 10pc of the Swiss population cross its frontiers, often commuting in either direction. Many crossing points are unmanned.

The same is true of other borders around Europe. For example, the frontier between Norway, who are not in the customs union, and Sweden, who are. Around the world frontiers like that between the USA and Canada work efficiently and smoothly.

All of these modern borders are facilitated by technology, which works a bit like the London congestion charge, with pre-notification of goods being shipped. The World Bank reviewed 19 countries across the globe and found that, on average, only 2pc of goods are physically checked at borders, with border control instead based on intelligence.

So what is all the fuss about the customs union and the Irish border? The answer is that it is a mendacious attempt by the EU to bully the UK into shackling ourselves to the customs union and, ultimately, the EU itself. In this Brussels is being aided and abetted by our own “fifth column” of parliamentarians and other Remainers, a shameful mix of EU stooges, useful fools and those who gleefully put self-interest before the national interest.

The customs union is designed as a protectionist wall to reduce competition and further the interests of corporations and landowners across the continent. As a consequence of its tariffs, we pay far more for our food, clothing and consumer products than we need to. In effect, it’s a 14pc tax on flat screen TVs, 17pc on trainers, a 21pc tax on tomatoes, 19pc on bananas, over 40pc on cheese, and so on. On leaving the customs union, we will have lower costs as these taxes, the money from which goes to the EU, can be removed.

It is not just consumers who will benefit. British manufacturers will be able to source raw materials and components around the world tariff- free as we sign up to trade deals or choose to remove the tariffs ourselves. The economy will boom and the cost of living will fall, but only if we leave the customs union. If we do not leave, not only will these benefits vanish, we shall also be subject to EU rules and the European courts. In fact, we won’t really have left at all, we will have all the burdens of the EU and none of the benefits.

The EU is terrified that Britain will become a high growth and thriving powerhouse of free-market economics, and that is why they want us tied down like some latter-day Gulliver among the Lilliputian political pygmies who make up the Eurocracy. But there is a danger that, badly advised by Remainer civil servants, our own political pygmies will not have the resolve to face down Brussels.

Brexit has been an earthquake for our Europhile establishment. The strength of Britain, and what makes us attractive to investors and others alike, are our strong values and culture; the rule of law, the English language, our free enterprise and love of liberty and, importantly, our long-term stability.

For centuries the establishment has adapted to change, including the emerging sovereignty of the people. They oversaw the Enlightenment of the 18th century and the reforms of the 19th century, which broke the grip of landowners and introduced free trade and free markets. From this came a period of unprecedented growth in prosperity and Britain’s global system.

But reform has not always emerged through evolution. The Peasants’ Revolt saw a rebalancing, by force, of the relationship between the Anglo- Saxon Britons and their Norman overlords. The Tudors broke with Europe and defined a British path, which led to a golden age. The English Civil War redefined the will of the people over the establishment and our distinctiveness from continental powers. But order and stability was reinforced by the re-establishment of the crown and separate development from Europe, reinforced with the 1689 coronation of William of Orange.

These events, and others, show that we have been here before. They all depict a demonstration of an establishment seduced by the corruptions of continental Europe, that the people of Britain will not accept being dictated to by a foreign power, taxed without full representation. Nor will they see their culture and values usurped by foreign autocrats or a takeover by migration, as we have seen around the country including in London.

These lessons have been learnt the hard way by those who presume to be our masters, rather than servant leaders. It should be a warning should they have sufficient contempt for democracy and arrogance to overrule the people, by keeping us in a customs union, thus producing the worst of all worlds, Brexit in name only.

John Longworth is an entrepreneur, co-chairman of Leave means Leave and is on the advisory board of Economists for Free Trade and the IEA. He was formerly director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

May 2nd, 2018: Telegraph