The EU referendum was the biggest vote in the democratic history of our country and it delivered a clear result – a majority of over well a million in favour of Britain leaving the EU. Since taking office the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been admirably clear, too, that Brexit has to mean Brexit. Almost everybody in the House of Commons accepts that the people’s decision is final. So what are we waiting for?
Triggering Article 50 within the next few weeks, not months, would mean we can take back control of borders, laws, and economy sooner rather than later Within the same time frame, Britain should start negotiations for access to the single market — and strike our own trade deals with countries outside the EU. It is already apparent that a lot of the dire consequences of a vote to leave that were put forward by the Remain campaign as part of Project Fear have proved unfounded.
Britain’s economic strength remains unaffected; consumer confidence is high and key indicators have not plunged in the way we were told would happen. Nevertheless, what does risk causing damage for as long as it continues is uncertainty? The doom and destruction promised by Project Fear should a Leave vote prevail has already been proven unfounded – let’s not let it continue to influence, and instead leave now. Businesses facing decisions about expansion and growth and investors wanting to put money into this country need to have a better idea of what the arrangements are going to be with Europe and the rest of the world once Britain leaves the EU. It will take time to agree but the sooner we start, the sooner uncertainty will be removed.
Triggering Article 50 is the beginning of the process, not the end. It is the starting gun and firing it will signal that serious negotiations are under way. There is bound to be a lengthy period to carry out those negotiations but as long as we delay their start there will be some people who will suggest there can be a fudge, second thoughts or further obstacles placed in the way. As the Prime Minister has made clear that is not the case and that we are going to leave, the sooner we fire the gun the better.
The Prime Minister has been clear that Brexit means Brexit, and I don’t believe anyone has put forward a case for why it cannot happen now as our aims are clear and it’s worth beginning long negotiations as soon as possible. Nobody has given any good reason for delay. We want to maintain access to the single market and to trade freely with Europe just as they will still want to trade freely with us. However, this will be subject to negotiation and we must set three key conditions. First, we have got to regain control of our borders and our immigration policy. We can choose who should have the right to enter and to work here. But I would like to see any such policy applied equally to everybody and on the basis of who will make a contribution to our society — not according to whether or not they happen to be a national of a EU member state. And we must be able to set a control on overall numbers and deliver on our promise to reduce the net figure to tens of thousands. We must deliver on our promises to reduce migration and negotiate beneficial access to the single market as soon as possible – it’s what the public expect.
Second, as long as we delay we continue to give huge sums to the EU every month as our membership fee — money which could be better spent in this country. As soon as we can conclude these negotiations, we will have the dividend of that money to spend on our priorities. Third, we need to free companies that do not trade with the EU as quickly as possible from having to comply with European regulations.. It is a simple measure to amend our own law so that all existing EU regulations continue to apply. Once that is done, we can then go through them, department by department, to decide which are sensible and we want to keep, and which we want to get rid of — those that simply add cost without delivering any benefit, and there will be quite a lot of those. This does not require negotiation. Once we are no longer members of the EU, it will be a matter solely for the British Government to decide.
Our laws and government spending can now be in British hands where they belong and we will be able to create new legislation that works for us. Of course, Europe will still be a major trading partner. But the greatest opportunities lie in our relationships with the fastest growing economies outside of the EU. At the moment we are held back from developing trade and investment deals with those countries because, while we are in the EU, they have to be agreed across all 28 countries. That is why it has proved impossible so far for Europe to make deals with China, India or the USA.