“Our Country is made for globalisation”; when I was Minister of State for Trade and Investment I would repeat these words at every opportunity; I even heard the Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, use them in a speech or two as well.
The UK is the most open major economy on the Planet. We don’t do protectionism like the French or the Americans. In this, Asia’s Century, if there is one Country that starts ahead of the game in the Global Engagement Stakes it’s ours.
In amongst the sulking of the Remainers one particularly wrong-headed bleat is that Brexit means isolationism; WRONG! Let’s get out there and get on with it, right round the World and back again, as we’ve done for centuries (including the last 43 years by the way!).
So; Action This Day:-
1. We should quickly but humbly (starting with the apology that was disgracefully absent in 1973) renew our tariff-free trading links with the Commonwealth. We should particularly encourage tariff-free agricultural imports (both commodity and value-added) from so many of those Countries both to bring much needed increase in wealth to them (and thus, for many, reduce their reliance on Overseas Aid) and to stimulate more getting-richer markets for our goods and services. Our EU membership forbade this, vetoed by protectionism. Imagine lifting the tariffs on Indian farming produce and enjoying access for legal, accountancy and banking services in return!
2. We should approach, in our language and attitude, our friends in the EU as the trading and investing partners they have been and will always be. They have not overnight become enemies; they are all the same great people they were on 22nd June; they need us and we need them. But, as I heard someone say last week, we must not leave the parking lot until we’ve set the satnav. Memo to Theresa May:- Set the global strategy quickly (and communicate it to everyone) develop the tactics to execute it and then, Get On With It! Business needs an end to uncertainty.
3. Appoint Task Forces to deliver quality trade deals with each of our major markets around the World: the USA, China, India, Mercosur, the GCC, ASEAN. Each group should be headed by a private-sector negotiator and include representatives from various sectors (oil and gas, creative industries, manufacturing, financial services, agriculture, food and drink, pharma and biotech) and from sme’s as well as Big Business, from the Trades Unions, from the SNP, from the NGO’s, from the environmentalist lobby; each one should seek the help and advice of experts in trade negotiations from other countries (thank you New Zealand for offering to help) and we should go fishing in the reservoir of talent at the WTO and in Brussels. Each Task Force should report through a Senior Civil Servant to a Senior Minister. The prize here is enormous; we should field our 1st X1 at all times. This is no time for listening to “very brave Minister”!
4. The Task Force for negotiating Brexit should have writ large on every briefing pack, every day (with great respect to our Scandinavian cousins) We Are Not Norway! I could weep when I hear those still engaging in the Great Remain Sulk say that we won’t have access to the Single Market without accepting Free Movement of Labour. Why not? New definitions and unique implementation are called for. No one engaged in this monumental exercise (on both sides of the Channel) has ever been here before; there are no precedent-based rules. They need us just as much as we need them; business-folk would approach discussions with that in mind; I just hope the self-defeating, inexperienced air of the Establishment isn’t infectious. We don’t have to unpick every piece of EU legislation; so much of it is sensible and should be continued in our domestic law en bloc. Workplace regulations are a good example. It’s not the principle, it’s the bureaucracy that goes with them that stymies entrepreneurship drive in small businesses.
5. Cut Corporation Tax to 10% and implement swiftly a large investment programme in our infrastructure, both physical (roads, railways, airports, power stations) and human (the largest literacy, numeracy and basic IT skilling programme the Country has ever seen, at school and adult level). Make us fit for purpose as we compete around the World in Asia’s Century.
I reluctantly voted for Brexit for our grandchildren’s sake. We have to create the wealth to provide the healthcare, welfare and pensions of a getting-older population in 50 years from now in Asia’s not Europe’s time. Making our own decisions, controlling our own destiny will let us create wealth by engaging with the World and by controlling who comes here (and we will need many) by the skill they have, not from where they come.
The People’s Vote gave our Country an oyster on 23rd June. Whether we take the pearl out of it is now down to each and every one of us. It could just be the best thing we’ve ever done!