No other time in the recent history of British politics has been so turbulent. But the United Kingdom needs to stay the Brexit course.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of lying to the Queen by a Scottish court, the Conservative government has lost its majority and kicked out 21 rebel Tory MPs, opposition parties in Parliament have for the first time denied the opportunity to hold a general election, and the government refuses to abide by a law that compels the prime minister to request an extension to the Brexit deadline.
Many Brits tuned out of the Brexit negotiations during Theresa May’s premiership, but under Johnson, everyone has been forced to sit up and listen. Brexit is happening on Oct. 31, deal or no deal, if Johnson is telling the truth when he says he’ll refuse to seek another needless extension to the deadline.
Three and a half years later, and the British government still hasn’t delivered on its promise to implement what was decided in the 2016 referendum. The British people, along with the international community, have been dealt doomsday prediction after prediction, encouraging them to either accept a deal that allows the European Union to dictate Britain’s trading relationships with foreign countries or just cancel Brexit altogether.
One of the main culprits of peddling misinformation has been the Confederation of British Industry, an organization that claims to be the voice of British business. CBI has argued repeatedly that Britain should stay in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union as part of a Brexit deal.
That would seriously inhibit Britain’s ability to create new trade agreements and become a free and independent, globally-trading nation.
CBI shouldn’t be considered an authoritative voice on any business matters, after consistently failing to predict the effects of the Brexit vote. This organization wants to lock the United Kingdom into a trading bloc with regulations that would impede its ability to take advantage of global economic growth.
Even the EU accepts that 90 per cent of global growth will take place outside its group of states over the next 15 years. What sane economist or business person would agree to remain a member of a group or hand over control of its own trade regulations under such circumstances?
If it takes temporary disruption to leave the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal, in order to access these global markets, then it should be done. Even leaving the EU without a deal would instantly allow the United Kingdom to drop tariffs on goods imported from outside the EU, allowing it to look across the Atlantic more favourably and develop better trading relationships with Canada and the United States.
Former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said in July 2019 that there was little point in Canada striking a deal until Brexit happens, referencing Johnson’s free-trade credentials. Canada could soon benefit from tariff-free access to 87 per cent of imports to Britain in the event of a no deal.
The huge potential for the U.K. to step up its game in terms of trade is exactly why the EU has long been keen to ensure that the U.K. doesn’t obtain any competitive trade advantage over the bloc.
Unelected leaders in Brussels know that a competitive United Kingdom is a significant threat to their already crumbling project. As they push for a European army and further integration of its member states, the last thing they need is one of its biggest and most powerful member states leaving and showing the rest of the continent how good life is outside the bloc.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, said that a deal couldn’t give Britain an “unfair” advantage in terms of trade. If the EU is scared of that happening, it’s time the U.K. took that opportunity and left the backwards, authoritarian project behind.
Jack Buckby is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.