No deal may be the very BEST deal for Britain, says JOHN LONGWORTH

THE Prime Minister called an election ostensibly to seek a mandate for Brexit negotiations and then proceeded to focus purely on domestic issues. The electorate had already factored in Brexit.

Both major parties had it in their manifestos and people expect it to happen. In the end, the election was not about Brexit at all and the verdict of the electorate was not a judgement on Brexit.

Opinion polls show two thirds of voters now want us to leave the EU. The only bearing the election has on Brexit is that the outcome has severely damaged the national interest by destabilising our government at the very moment we need strong  rather than weak and wobbly, leadership.

The referendum gave our Prime Minister, whoever that may be, all the mandate they needed, but without a working majority to face down the “remoaners” and “faint hearts” in Parliament, including the hive of the left liberal establishment, the House of Lords. Getting the best for Britain will be a challenge.

Any PM has in their hand golden sovereigns of economic growth which they can choose to bake into the Brexit cake, but only if we leave the Single Market and the Customs Union and we don’t allow the EU to constrain us from using them.

Inevitably they will try, particularly in view of the European Commission’s avowed intent to make us worse off and Germany’s desperation to preserve their political and economic project, of creeping vassal statehood that now defines the EU.

But whether our politicians know that they hold our prosperity in her own hands and can crystallise a brilliant future for Britain, entirely independently of any negotiations with the EU, I am not sure.

The PM has so far allowed a fallacy to develop, the characterisation of success or failure in the negotiations as to whether the UK achieves a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, or not. Nothing could be further from the truth. An FTA is merely the cherry, on the icing, on the cake, nice to have but nowhere near as satisfying as the cake itself.

The simple fact is that we now face a choice between engaging in convoluted and probably fruitless negotiations around an FTA, taken to the wire, for which we will probably have to pay billions, with the horror of  transitional arrangements and restrictions placed upon our freedoms by the Eurocrats and Frau Merkel, such that we can only have a poorer version of what we have now.

A “soggy bottomed, sugar coated fudge”, effectively Brexit in name only and with Britain worse off. We will have fallen into the trap, caught in EU web just as we were about to fly free, a web on which the mercantilist Germany is the spider at the centre.

Alternatively, Britain can re-emerge as a great and prosperous, global, trading nation. For this to happen we need to implement the real economic benefits of Brexit as soon after Brexit day as possible.

Just three measures; deregulation, the re investment in the UK of our net contribution to the EU, and the removal of external tariffs imposed by the EU, would together amount to 7.2 per cent boost to our economy, between £120 and £150 billion. This would be like increasing our economic growth rate by a third every year for twelve years!

On top of this we can abolish the Common Agricultural Policy, repatriate our fisheries, make Free Trade deals around the world and cut out the cost of migrants. Each migrant in a low skill job costs the UK taxpayer a net £3,500 per year in welfare subsidies and public services.

Making Britain an open, enterprise economy is the way to prosperity and making Brexit an economic success, while retaining the sovereignty that people voted for.

To reap these rewards will require the government to take back control of the timescale and to truly believe we can make our own way in the world. The PM must put a stop date on negotiations around an FTA of quarter one, 2018.

If there are no heads of agreement by then, we should stop talks on annFTA and instead should concentrate on administrative measures and devote valuable time and resource to preparing to implement the great economic benefits of Brexit the moment we leave. We must, under no circumstances, sacrifice the cake for the cherry. We can “have our cake and eat it”

Most of all this will require inspiring, courageous, smart and resolute leadership in the face of enemies abroad and at home.

Cometh the moment, cometh the man?

John Longworth is Co Chairman, Leave means Leave and former Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.

June 15th, 2017: Express