IF THE five years since this country voted to leave the European Union has taught us anything, it is that we have become far too dependent on imports from EU member states, and that in doing so we have sacrificed our producers here in the United Kingdom and our relationships with other countries all over the world. We have also seen how vulnerable this makes us to the goodwill of the European Commission itself. Now that we have left the EU, why should the people of this country have to be so dependent on an organisation which actively undermines the UK on the world stage and attempts to annex part of this country under the false pretence of wishing to uphold peace on the island of Ireland?
Thankfully, this vulnerability has been reducing in recent years as UK consumers buy less and less from the EU. Compared with the first quarter of 2016, sales from the EU to Britons were down by 9.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, equating to £4.5billion. This is a pattern which has been growing since we voted to leave and as the vindictive and callous nature of the EU became more obvious.
However, we have much further to go. We still import over £278billion in goods and services from the EU every year. This is money which would be far better invested into the UK’s own businesses and producers. As such, there is a great need for the Government to get behind a campaign to encourage consumers to ‘Buy British’. In this way we can not only create more growth in our own economy, bringing more jobs and increased tax revenues for the Government. We would also cut off the flow of money to EU governments who do not have our best interests at heart. This would finally drive the message home to those in their ivory towers in Brussels, that the UK can survive outside the EU and that we are not afraid to hit them where it hurts.
Of course, this does not mean cutting ourselves off entirely from the EU or the rest of the world. It is a fact we will need to import some goods and services we simply cannot provide in this country, or sell to these countries. Similarly, there are many jobs in this country which depend on some imports from the EU at the moment, whether this is car parts or flowers, for example. It would not make sense to try to be an isolated nation.
So we must find new ways to produce more in this country, whilst also shifting our focus away from the EU and towards new trading opportunities around the world. This year (ending March 1, 2021) the UK finally imported more from outside the EU than we did from the EU – but only just, with 50.8 per cent of imports coming from non-EU countries.
Evidently, even without Government encouragement, the people of this country are turning away from the EU and preferring to take their business elsewhere. This means avoiding unnecessary and overly bureaucratic customs checks which were supposed to be eliminated by the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Imagine how strong a message we could send to Brussels if the Government actually engaged with the issue.
What’s more, the Government must publicly embrace a reset of our approach to imports, which can only help in our negotiations with future trade partners. This would demonstrate to foreign Governments that we want to embrace new opportunities and not tether ourselves to the EU, while still having a strong domestic industry to protect.
I believe we should always ‘Buy British’ where we can to both support local businesses and drive forward our economy, especially as we continue to push on with our economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic policies. Not only will this end our dependence on imports from the EU, but it will create opportunities and jobs, and will give us the chance to increase the value of our exports to the rest of the world, with British businesses developing new techniques and products to compete with other markets. Buying British is not and never should be about pulling up the drawbridge, but is about setting us up for success in the future by creating a more stable base upon which a truly Global Britain can be built.