Why I still believe leaving the EU is absolutely the right thing to do
BY SUSAN HALL
What’s your favourite argument for why we should ignore 2016’s EU Referendum? Is it the delightful claim that “Lots of Leave voters will have died by now”? Or perhaps the smug “People didn’t know what they were voting for”?
How about “People didn’t vote to be poorer”? Now this is a particularly ridiculous argument for two main reasons. First, millions of people vote to be poorer every election. In fact, every time someone chooses to vote Labour they are voting to be poorer. I’d never advise anyone to vote Labour but that doesn’t mean all votes for Labour should be stricken from the record. The second problem with arguing “People didn’t vote to be poorer” is that it would be entirely legitimate to have voted to leave because you believe that sovereignty and democracy are more important than economic growth.
Nevertheless, when I voted to leave the EU, I did so convinced not only that restoring the UK’s sovereignty and ability to make our own laws was of the utmost importance but also that leaving was in the best economic interests of the United Kingdom. In fact I would argue that the two are inextricably linked.
That is not to pretend that leaving the EU will be without difficulties and risks. The short-term will almost certainly be messy. Leavers – in large part because of the relentless, fear-drenched negativity of those who have proven unwilling or unable to accept a democratic result – have often been tempted to go too far the other way, claiming that all will inevitably be fine and that a No Deal Brexit is nothing to worry about. In reality there will almost certainly be some issues.
It is unlikely to be an entirely smooth journey. If you’re a free market Conservative who agrees with Ronald Reagan that “the most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help” then you might not expect the Government – even a Conservative Government – to have solved all the problems that might emerge as we leave the EU. In addition we know that any hiccups or problems the Government faces over the next few years will be blamed on Brexit, regardless of whether doing so is fair or accurate. However, although the journey will be bumpy, I am more certain than ever that the destination will be worthwhile.
The EU is struggling under the weight of its internal contradictions. The Euro has proved to be disastrous, acting as a straitjacket for economies like Greece. In Italy real per capita income was the same in 2018 as it had been in 1998. Ultimately the Euro will require significant capital transfers from Germany to weaker economies. It looks increasingly unlikely that the German public will be willing to see their politicians agree to such a policy. Without it the Eurozone will lurch from crisis to crisis. As the EU’s neighbour the UK will be impacted by these problems, but to a much lesser extent than we would be within the EU.
Outside we will be in a far better position to plough our own furrow. We can liberalise trade, open up markets, lower or eliminate tariffs and pursue policies that are in our interests rather than in the average interest of 28 countries. Protectionism is ultimately to the detriment of everyone, but it has allowed the EU to push back against the competition that we should be embracing. The UK should be at the forefront of these efforts. Free trade will benefit our whole country and it will be fantastic to be able to reap the benefits without having to wait until we have convinced our EU partners.
We need to leave the EU as soon as humanly possible. It is true that far too much of the last three years has been wasted, but we now have a Prime Minister who absolutely recognises that leaving the EU is an opportunity to be seized and not a bomb to be neutralised. We should not pretend that leaving is an end in itself or that it won’t involve some short-term setbacks. In the long-term, however, we will be a stronger, happier, healthier, wealthier nation for having left the EU. I predict that in 20 years we will struggle to find people who will admit to having voted to Remain and it won’t be because they have died off.
Susan Hall is a London Assembly Member and Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group. Follow her on twitter: @Councillorsuzie