Saturday, January 09, 2016

What Brexit can do for Britain and the world

Many on the Leave side concentrate on the negatives, often resorting to complaints about the cost of being in the EU. For reasons that escape us we see Daniel Hannan bickering with the Remain campaign over intangible numbers that mean very little to the average voter.

We have maintained from the outset that this is a flawed approach to campaigning. Net contribution to the EU budget comes in at less than £10bn and if it were about saving money, there are probably easier ways of finding such savings than trying to tear ourselves away from the EU in one go. For us it has never been about the money. Brexit is about democracy, the future and our place in the world.

In that, the Remain camp have been goading Leavers as to what Brexit looks like. We have been very vocal in our support of the Norway Option as a transitional mechanism to leave the EU. This prompts the fatuous Remain campaigns to reel off the hackneyed remarks from their Norway Option crib sheets.

We are not saying, as they suggest, that we want to be like Norway. We couldn't if we wanted to. We are simply saying that the legal framework through which Norway relates to the EU political entity is as good as any as safe and easy means of departure. We have already seen experts on both sides of the divide saying that the Norway Option is a safe bet that carries little risk - and today HSBC and Barclays have also implied they could wear it as an option.

The Remain camp will likely say that we still have to pay the same and implement all of the laws. The truth, as always, is very different. Having contacted the EFTA Secretariat, which administers the EEA agreement, they report that 10,862 acts have been incorporated into the EEA Agreement since its inception in 1992.

Very often, though, acts repeal other acts, and some acts are time-limited and cease to have an effect. Taking this into account, there are 4,957 acts remaining in force today. By contrast, the very latest count of the EU laws in force (today) stands at 23,076. As a percentage of that number, the EEA acquis of 4,957 acts currently stands at 21 percent. Moreover, Norway does have a veto.

But actually, it wouldn't matter if the percentage was substantially higher. Probably, by now the bulk of the EEA acquis is made up of global/regional standards. It is very difficult to say exactly how much without doing a detailed analysis, but what we can say with certainty is that globalisation is the direction of travel, and in due course, the majority of EU Single Market law will be based on global/regional standards and regulations.

Consequently it comes back to that question of what we want and why do we want it? If the financial savings are marginal and the opportunities for deregulation are few, what is the point? Well, it's about modernity.

While the Remain camp is looking inward at Europe, we are looking at the revolution in global trade. National borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant to trade and we need a regulatory framework that acknowledges this. In that, the removal of non-tariff barriers is the primary concern of the WTO.

We are seeing innovative measures to enhance global trade which require a great many reforms and modernisation programmes. It requires good governance in developing countries that aligns more closely with our own standards. That is why we see the law making agenda moving up the chain. As global standards and regulations mature incrementally we see the emergence of a global single market much larger in size and potential than the EU.

This is where the EU becomes problematic. Rather than accept global standards as they come, they have to go through the EU mill to be poked at, prodded and delayed until they are so mangled at implementation that they become a protectionist wall for European markets and perversely, EU laws become a trade barriers rather than trade facilitators - making it difficult for Africa to sell to Europe.

Rather than embracing the new paradigm, the EU still thinks only EU nations are convergent enough to share regulations and must set the bar for the rest of the world. Well, the rest of the world has caught up while Europe was sleeping and now we can look seriously about breaking our single market wide open so that anybody can participate. This is something the EU instinctively does not want to do.

Thus, our vision is a Britain functioning as a bridge between the EU internal market and the global single market. The EEA/Efta route is the framework by which we maintain the trade links we already enjoy while having the agility to join the global party. Instead of pleading with the EU to acknowledge our concerns with our external trading partners, we can deal directly.

Moreover, with an independent vote and a veto at the global forums where the rules are made, we have unprecedented leverage that we do not enjoy as EU members. This has the advantage of shaking the EU out of its complacency and may persuade it to be more open to the rest of the world. Perhaps even modernise its attitudes to trade negotiations. The EU is all for big bang deals and grand gestures. The rest of the world has been catching up one small step at a time.

In this we can lend our expertise to the global governance universe, leading at the top tables and leading the EU into the new century by example. It's an exciting prospect. We are used to those in the Remain camp saying we Brits want to have our cake and eat it, but we ask, why the hell shouldn't we? What's the point of having a cake if you can't eat it? At present we have a tasty cake right in front of us and we can't even nibble the icing.

The opportunities of the UK being at the very top of decision making, influencing regulatory decision making before regulations even reach the EU ought to be obvious - especially so for investors. Being the first to implement global standards means we are at the forefront of trade and reaping the benefits of the Trade Facilitation Agreement while the same measures are still choked up in the EU talking shop.

Brexit is not about having less regulation. It's about having more influence in how they are made and having a direct line when we want reform. It's about cutting out the middleman and it's about shaping the world as we have always done. It's about breaking out of the little Europe mentality and reforming the European market from the outside - in ways we have never managed in the last forty years of membership.

David Cameron says he wants a reformed EU but if we really want to be leaders in Europe then we need to be off the EU leash - and that is one reform the EU can never grant us. Snatching more power over decision making is in the DNA of the EU. In any case Cameron's not asking to be free of the leash, but if he did, he wouldn't get it. Nobody would. The only way the EU is ever going to reform and modernise is if we drag it kicking and screaming into the modern world. The only possible way to do that is to leave.

This prompts the Remain camp to say that being outside the EU means we are "isolated". This is nonsense. It means being free to choose alliances according to the type of deal on the table. It means building coalitions of common interests and cooperating freely. Sometimes that means choosing our EU allies, other times we may side with India - with whom we have many important cultural and trade links. If anyone is isolated, it's the EU as it cuts itself off from the global markets - breaking with global standards and erecting more regulatory barriers. Brexit is our statement of intent to the world that we want to be in at the top tables and dealing with the bigger market.

We don't want to be in a subordinate relationship with the EU. We do not want to be told what our agenda is by the EU and we do not want our decisions overturned by them. We want to revitalise our domestic politics which has stagnated as we outsourced the critical functions of it. We want to be re-energised so that our politicians are discussing new and bigger ideas rather than resurrecting the politics of the eighties. We want the EU as a partner not a master.

Brexit is about global participation. It is about shortening the chain of accountability and it is about embracing the future. It's also about letting go of the past. The EU was born from the ashes of the two wars that raged across Europe. The world has evolved since and so has trade. The EU suited the old world and it remedied some of our problems. Now we have to set about building a global community of equals and pulling down barriers. We can't do that from behind the walls the EU erects.

In the final analysis, it's a choice between being a subordinate member of a fearful and timid EU or standing as a bridge between the two worlds and getting the best from both. If that costs more than EU membership, so be it. If it means more but better regulation, so be it. What we get is worth far more than anything the EU can offer - and it's the true reform of Europe that Mr Cameron would never get in a hundred years of trying. This is so much bigger than saving a few quid. Let's go!