Article first posted on The Commentator.
With Theresa May, the new Prime Minister away on her hiking holiday in Switzerland, the major story coming out of Whitehall at the moment has been the apparent skirmish between two leading Brexiteers: Dr Liam Fox — who heads the new Department for International Trade — and the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.
The disagreement itself was over Dr Fox’s demand to have part of the Foreign Office’s traditional remit transferred to Fox’s new Department for International Trade.
The spat is perhaps not surprising, considering the reputation some Leave campaigners have gained for disagreement and public bickering. Added to the typical infighting between government departments, the main surprise is that this spat didn’t happen sooner.
Dr Fox’s request — for the transfer of the Foreign Office’s economic diplomacy team to his department — concerns a competency which will become very important over the course of the next decade.
The UK’s Membership of the EU has meant all trade agreements must be negotiated by the European Commission – on behalf of all EU Member States. This has removed any ability for the UK to negotiate trade deals, in our out of the EU.
Brexit means this responsibility will once again be returned to our own elected government. Remoaners have wasted no time in pointing out how the UK does not currently employ many trade negotiators and they are right. (It is worth noting New Zealand has already offered the UK some of its own negotiators, but we are not sure if this offer, among other offers, has been taken up.)
It is therefore understandable Messrs. Fox and Johnson, and indeed the Minister for Brexit, David Davis, will be spending the remainder of 2016 — as well as part of next year — hiring new staff and establishing their new departments.
Hopefully, the mandarins in Whitehall will let them get on with hiring the best staff for these very important jobs. They will all do well to follow the PM’s instructions — to get on with it — rather than engaging in these petty Whitehall squabbles.
The exact nature of Brexit — hard or soft — remains to be seen, but the minimum requirement should be the removal of the Common Customs Tariff, which will allow the UK to negotiate our own trade deals once again. The EU boasts about the 56 trade agreements signed with non-EU countries.
But of these, only 24 are with countries within the top 100 economies in the world, and only 11 are within the top 50. The total combined GDP in 2015 of these 56 countries in January 2015 was $6.7 trillion — put to shame by the massive achievements of much smaller countries such as Switzerland ($39.8 trillion) and Chile ($58.3 trillion).
Brexit will enable the UK to throw off the shackles which EU membership has bound us with.
The vote to Leave the EU was not a vote to Leave Europe — which would be geographically impossible. Nor was it a vote for isolationism (we are not about to sail off into the Atlantic either)! Rather, it was a vote against the advancing European federal superstate, with an entirely Eurocentric focus.
In America, President Obama’s administration has increasingly focused on Asia, recognising the increasing importance of the region. You only need look at the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between 12 Pacific Rim nations, constituting around 40 percent of the world’s economic output, to see where the economic future of the 21st century lies.
Brexit will enable the UK to follow America’s lead on this. We are ideally placed to build up significant influence in the region with our historic allies in the Commonwealth. BP’s recent $8 billion investment in Indonesian offshore gas is a good example of the huge potential Asia offers to British companies. (By the way, this investment is good news for the many pensioners who’s pension funds have invested in BP!).
The increasing demand for British goods and services from Commonwealth nations has the potential to boost the UK economy for years to come. Last month we saw Air Asia make the largest single order of Airbus A321 neo-aircraft at the Farnborough Air Show – again demonstrating the huge potential of Asian markets for UK companies.
Modern technological developments have made trading with the other side of the world easier than ever before. The huge size of these potential markets should have British exporters licking their proverbial lips.
One plan for Dr Fox’s new department to consider might be establishment a Commonwealth free trade area. This should include a free trade zone with common labour and environmental standards, and measures to protect data and the intellectual property of large companies, in a similar vein to the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Unlike the EU’s single market, which is based upon protectionist principles designed to prop up uncompetitive companies, this Commonwealth free trade area would encourage greater competition amongst its members. This would in turn drive innovation, and with it, productivity leading to further economic growth.
A vote to Remain inside the European Union would have been a vote for stagnation and decline. The Great British Public’s vote to Leave is based on optimism and growth for our future. After all, the EU is in decline as an economic force.
In 2003, its share of the world economy was 30.7 percent. This has fallen to 23.7 percent and looks set to drop below 20 percent by the end of the decade. It spends vast sums on flash offices, huge pensions and lavish salaries for its unelected officials. Innovation and creativity are stifled under seemingly endless amounts of regulations decided in Brussels.
The vast debts of Eurozone nations mean little can be done in the way of balanced fiscal investments across Europe, meaning those EU nations which do well economically, will be forever bailing out those which don’t.
Brexit will enable the UK to throw off the shackles of EU membership and will enables us to look to the wider world. There are almost endless opportunities out there for British businesses to expand.
It may be frustrating to see Brexiteers like Dr Fox and Boris Johnson arguing in public, but it is at least good to see some ambition for Britain. We need a change in mindset: UK officials should be encouraged to come up with bold and exciting new ideas.
For too long we have been content with focusing on Europe. Now is the time for us to ensure that we Get Britain Out of the EU and to secure greater trade for Great Britain.