John Redwood’s latest diary discusses the Conservative Leadership Election
On Tuesday I will vote for Andrea Leadsom. Her message is fresh and exciting. Behind it lies a lifetime of business and political experience.
In recent months she has shown she is a woman of principle, placing the UK’s interests before her own, campaigning for a cause that was unfashionable in the government she served. She did so with passion, with dignity and with effectiveness. Those are the qualities I look for in our next Prime Minister.
I like her vision of a global UK, looking outward to the wider world. To do that well the UK needs to regain her vote and voice on international bodies the EU took us off. We need to have a fair migration system with the same rules for Europe as the rest of the world. We need to be able to spend our own money on our own priorities.
She understands that we need a speedy and smooth transition from EU subsidiary state to an independent UK. She recognises that there are many who want to make it complex. At its heart is a simple legislative act, to reassert UK control over our laws, borders and money. The faster we do that, and the more we reassure our former partners that we do not wish to impede their trade with us, the better.
I spent part of my life as the UK’s single market Minister. Much of the time was used up opposing needless regulations, or seeking to amend clumsy laws. I never thought you needed almost 300 new laws to be able to trade with each other. They said the programme was completed in 1992, but subsequently we learnt we needed many hundreds of extra laws to extend and improve the construction we created in the last century. Trying to agree something sensible and that works with 27 other countries is exceptionally difficult. That is why the EU does not have free trade deals with the USA, India, China or Brazil, four of the largest economies in the world.
I came to see that so much of the so called single market programme was more about creating a common EU government and less about oiling the wheels of exports and imports. The Cassis de Dijon judgement which said that if a product is accepted as of merchandisable quality in one EU country it should be allowed for sale in any other EU country was all you need as the basis of a common market. Some common regulatory standards can be added in various areas, but too much prescription impedes innovation and penalises small and challenger companies. We should worry that for all its laws and rules the EU has not led the digital and internet revolution. The USA has done that, spawning all the large new companies that dominate the market.
As a business woman Andrea understands this. She wants to see more business success, not less. She wants more investment and more opportunities for UK students and employees. She wants the prosperity that business can bring to percolate through every part of our country. She is driven by a charitable wish to help those in need, and by an ambition to offer more opportunity and prosperity to the many.
I welcome that approach and am impatient to get on with it. With Andrea leading us I look forward to an early passage of a Bill to taking control of our laws, borders and money. Far from expecting a Brexit recession or slower growth, I forecast that we will be able to stimulate our economy more with the extra money we have to spend. We will soon be able to negotiate job enhancing trade deals with many other countries. Already since Brexit the markets have given us our best ever credit rating as measured by our very low borrowing costs. That is a further improvement in our public finances. Government bonds at are at all time highs. We should be optimistic with the bond markets, and look for ways to free investors and companies to innovate, train and add jobs across our land.
I have seen Andrea go about briefing herself on all aspects of the EU project. She set up Fresh Start in the last Parliament. She worked well with a diverse group of colleagues. Between them they produced excellent papers charting just how much power had gone, and just how damaging many EU policies have been. Remember the Exchange Rate Mechanism, and the Common Fishery Policy? She now has the chance to use all that work to good effect, leading our team to negotiate a better future,. She will do so with skill, with vision and with control of the detail. I wish to help in any way to get her elected to do so.
I have consulted with constituents, Conservative members and Association Officers. There was wide range of views, with support for most of the candidates. The largest number of favourable responses was for Andrea Leadsom, and I have decided to use my vote to support her.
I have been impressed by the work she did in the Vote Leave campaign. When she first entered Parliament in 2010 she set about defining the problems with our current relationship with the EU, and established the many areas in need of reform. She brought together the Fresh Start Group of MPs, largely from the 2010 intake. They worked together well under her guidance to produce a range of documents on EU issues. I was always doubtful myself that reform was possible, but I understood what they were trying to do.
When she saw the direction of travel of the modern EU she worried about how feasible reform would be. The EU was clearly going in the direction of more central control and power when the UK wanted less. With the EU out of the Euro and out of Schengen it was becoming increasingly difficult to be within the wider decision making body.When she reviewed Mr Cameron’s lack of progress in getting any meaningful reform despite the threat of exit with a referendum she decided to campaign to leave. She showed herself to be someone who looks at the evidence and makes up her mind. Her choice was not a comfortable one for a rising Minister in a Remain government, but she took it nonetheless.
She has held senior business jobs before entering Parliament, and is now Minister of State at the Department of Energy. She has a fresh and determined mind, with the qualities necessary to get us out of the EU quickly and with the minimum of disruption.
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