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HomeBrexit WatchPatrick Benham-Crosswell: Brexit can work – this is how

Patrick Benham-Crosswell: Brexit can work – this is how


A book review:

Clean Brexit by Liam Halligan and Gerard Lyons

There are some days when the news gives the impression that we are refighting the 2016 EU Referendum, rather than considering the steps necessary to leave the EU and ensure the continued and increasing prosperity of the United Kingdom. This book addresses this requirement succinctly, objectively and readably – as one would expect from two noted economists, one of whom is a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph.

The authors start by rejecting the false dichotomy of ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit; in their view the choice is ‘clean’ or ‘messy’. The former precludes membership of the single market, customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and is what the electorate voted for; the latter might or might not. Clean Brexit might come with a trade deal, or it might not. The authors make the point that no deal is hardly a disaster as World Trade Organisation rules would apply, and most of our exports are under WTO anyway. They applaud Mrs May’s statement that no deal is better than the wrong deal, and demonstrate why.

The book also considers the EU’s future without the UK (plus or minus a deal). The fundamental problems of the euro remain, yet the only solution (full federalism) remains politically unacceptable. The writers highlight the challenge that the Irish-UK border poses; it is patently absurd that the detail of this is negotiated on behalf of Eire by Brussels. Could Brexit lead to Irexit?

The second part of the book looks more closely at what the UK needs to do now to get on track to a bright post-Brexit future. None of this is rocket science but reading it one does wonder what on earth successive governments have been doing with our money and economy. Housing is one obvious measure of failure, as is the sorry state of UK infrastructure which, as the authors show, is a significant contributor to low productivity growth. They propose solutions which seem eminently sensible and achievable.

Of course, the macro-economic world does not exist in a political vacuum and the authors are well aware of the politics (both UK and European); as they note, Brexit is more toxic in the Westminster bubble than the repeal of the Corn Laws which, like Brexit, disadvantaged the politically entrenched elite to the benefit of the general public. The authors ridicule the warnings of Project Fear, with evidence. One devastating fact they cite is the OECD data on foreign direct investment to the UK, which totalled $33billion in 2015. The 2016 total was $254billion, of which $178billion was committed after the June vote for Brexit.

While this book is primarily an analysis of the economics of making Brexit work, it is also an exposé of how poorly Westminster serves the interests of the British population. This should be more widely known (although it has been long suspected).

Its style is light, its data remorseless. If it occasionally repeats points, such as the ease of operation under WTO, frankly they are points that need making repeatedly until the media gets it. However you voted in June 2016, if you are interested in securing a vibrant future for the UK you should read this book.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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