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The moment Boris must put Brexit before party unity


IF ever there was a moment when a Prime Minister could write his own chapter in history, it is now. The destiny of our great nation, with its long history, culture and traditions, hangs in the balance. We are, as we have always been, distinctive and separate from our continental neighbours. We have repeatedly asserted our unique course in history. In other words, we have been here before.

The Reformation defined our independent voyage, notwithstanding the Habsburg Armada sent by dominant European power of the day. Arm-wrestling with France, defiance of Napoleon and latterly resistance to German hegemony have all defined our rise and, more recently, our relative decline. Despite this, Britain has prevailed as a significant economy and force in the world, with extensive and unique international connectivity – not least through the Commonwealth – and credible armed forces. Much of this we owe to our long history of liberal philosophers and economists who set a course for our prosperity and moulded our trade and history of democratic reform.

All of these moments in history were hard fought at the time. Magna Carta, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights, the Reform Acts and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Each time there was always an ‘establishment’, those who held the levers of power and used them to enrich themselves, who resisted bitterly the necessary change. So it is again.

So too again, as in the past, we face an Irish problem. ‘England’s adversity is Ireland’s opportunity’ is the saying. Foreign powers have throughout history done their best to interfere in our internal affairs. We have had traitors aplenty and I am sure that in past times it felt desperate. So it does again. There are, however, realities in the current game of bluff and double-bluff that give cause for optimism.

The consistent pressure provided by the Brexit Party is crucial and timely, creating the necessary tension within the UK’s political sphere and within the EU to keep Brexit on track.

Firstly, it keeps the minds of the (allegedly) eighty Tory ‘wets’ focused on the threat to their seats if they do not step up to the Brexit challenge: that the Brexit Party could take enough votes to deny them their seats if they follow their snouts to the trough rather than putting Brexit and the nation first.

Secondly, it sends a very clear message to the EU that the PM cannot compromise UK independence lest he succumb to the Brexit Party. It gifts the PM credibility.

Thirdly, the Brexit Party provides the unadulterated argument for prosperity under a Clean Break Brexit, whatever the protestations of Varadkar, Hammond and the EU.

Regarding Hammond’s arguments for staying in the Customs Union: they simply do not stack up. Rather they reveal his establishment determination to maintain vested interests. If we leave the Customs Union, quite apart from trade deals, we will be free to unilaterally reduce tariffs, massively boosting the economy and reducing the cost of living; and to have a competitive currency which will boost the regions and re-balance the current account. In addition we will have a one-off £39billion for investment in business and infrastructure and £9billion a year for recurrent spend or tax cuts. Nor should we forget a re-stimulated fishing industry worth £4billion of business.

Talking of fish, it is important to recognise that the obsession with trade deals is a bit of a red herring. Trade deals are not essential for prosperity, they are a bonus. Only 13 per cent of UK GDP is associated with EU trade and only 8 per cent of businesses export to the EU. Most trade in the world is successfully conducted without trade deals at all, simply on WTO terms.This is true of the biggest economies in the world, the USA and China.

Tariff removal produces much of the benefit of trade deals and the cumulative value of this and the other measures I have mentioned will boost the domestic and export economy irrespective of international arrangements.

If, along with this, a post-Brexit government saved a one-off £108billion by ditching HS2 and halved the virtue-signalling overseas aid budget, yielding a further £6billion a year, we would see Hammond’s Disneyland of self-serving establishment ’normality’ blown out of the water. Incidentally that would still leave Britain one of the greatest contributors to overseas aid amongst its peers.

Hammond’s viewpoint is symptomatic of the very real dangers besetting Brexit. Britain’s exit from the EU is assailed by a fifth column of EU cheerleaders in Parliament, multi-nationals and the media, often working in collusion with the EU establishment, delivering round-the-clock Project Fear via the media and putting constant pressure on the PM.

Unless we can achieve a deal that gives us true liberty, or find a way and the courage to leave with a clean break, Brexit is in jeopardy.

We – and that means Boris Johnson too – should make no mistake as to what is at stake. If we fail to leave now, the chances of leaving reduce. The EU is in full steam towards the creation of a supra-national state, with Germany in particular and to a lesser extent France calling the shots. I witness this week in, week out, in Brussels and Strasbourg. Once again Britain faces an existential threat.

But the EU is in trouble. Its politicians clearly don’t care about their citizens – witness the shocking levels of youth unemployment on the continent. The bad debt-riddled eurozone is at serious risk given an overdue and impending global slowdown. Is it too big to fail? Very probably. That it will not allowed to fail, given that it is the great German Project, is highly likely. But the EU do not hold all the cards. They are vulnerable and weak.

Once the UK leaves, provided we have the freedom to succeed, the dynamic will change. We will have savoured the sweet taste of Liberty. We will have in our hands the levers of the economy. People will get used to this and it will become unconscionable that we should rejoin. This is the nightmare of Remainers.

It is essential now that we – and that means Prime Minister Johnson – move forward quickly to a Leave position that gives us the freedom to succeed. If we do, we will never look back. I have booked my hotel rooms in Strasbourg up to December but they are cancellable.

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John Longworth
John Longworth
John Longworth is Chairman of the Independent Business Network of family businesses, a former Conservative MEP and was previously Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.

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