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Cliff Hanger – Britain now stands between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

By David Price

The United Kingdom is stumbling towards a no deal with the European Union, and its like lemmings falling off a cliff, we are told. Theres now a realistic prospect that Britain is just about to do catastrophic damage to herself, in some tragic act of self-harm. Our beloved country is set to ride its Union Jack-painted scooter off the political equivalent of Beachy Head, crashing down to the rocks below, so they say

But hold on a minute, lets look at what awaits us in that no deal scenario. If its such a terrible drop down from this cliff edge, why are so many boats bobbing on the serene, glinting blue sea beneath? The rest of the world is down there  eighty five percent of the planets GDP to be precise  and when you check the figures, you see theyve all grown rather faster than the Eurozone in the past decade. Meanwhile up here on this cliff top, its misty and its raining.

Check out the United States, whose economy has expanded eleven percent more than the Eurozone since 2008. Its lucky for us that theyve done so well, otherwise we wouldnt have buyers for all our Jaguar and Aston Martin cars, Dyson vacuums and Dunhill designer threads. The USA is our largest single export market, and unlike the EU they buy far more from us than we do from them. As time passes, this proportion rises, just as British exports to the EU proportionally drop.

China is another country that has expressed serious interest in doing a free trade deal with the UK! In the past decade, the worlds second largest economy has taken more people out of poverty than live in the entire EU put together. Until recently however, the Eurozone managed to stack up precisely zero economic growth, and youth unemployment in Greece hit fifty percent. Chairman Mao would be turning in his grave, but the European Commission hasnt batted an eyelid.

Then theres our friends and family in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, India and other Commonwealth countries. Sure, they were piffling little countries when we began our slow climb up this rocky outcrop in 1973, but are now all doing rather well without us. They didnt have a banking crisis so have continued to grow strongly  thanks in part to smart free trade deals with the biggest fish in the deep blue sea  the USA, China and Japan. In fact, all those countries seem to be having a ball. Maybe manning the lifeboat isnt so scary after all?

When we started climbing up this cliff, it accounted for nearly forty percent of world GDP. What was not to like about a free trade deal with the Common Market back then? Trouble is, it turned out to be rather more than that. Some told us we were buying a stairway to heaven, but never admitted what it actually meant. It turned out that it was a full-blown political union with flag, anthem, currency, court and even army  rather than just a trading block. Thats why the majority of British voters voted to bail out last year  confident that we could avoid any heavy weather coming our way.

Passionate advocates of the EU  who seem to have an awful lot of friends in high places  tell us that dark and stormy skies await us down below, on that vast and scary sea. But land ahoy!  most countries now trade with one another on World Trade Organisation rules. No political masters, no exorbitant subscription fees, no patronising lectures or insults flying around; instead they just get on with buying and selling to one another. Wasnt that what we wanted out of the Common Market?

WTO tariffs are relatively trivial  an average of around 3.5% across all market sectors. The Civitas thinktank says it will cost British exporters around £5.2bn, but we would raise£12.9bn back from tariffs on EU imports, so could more than compensate our manufacturers  and even reduce VAT for UK consumers with cash to spare. WTO certainly hasnt stifled growth  rather it is the EU that has vastly underperformed in growth terms. WTO also gives us  for the first time in nearly half a century  the chance to do fast bilateral free trade deals with the worlds leading economies, bringing prices right down in the long run.

The British government will need to be more muscular  well need some serious infrastructure spending  but were set to save billions in EU fees. One especially exciting thing is that outside the Single Market and Customs Union, we can pursue imaginative trade programmes with developing countries that are impossible under the EUs protectionist Common External Tariff. So there was a time when things looked good up here on the cliff, but when the political weather changes its never clever to leave yourself exposed. Instead, let us reach out to the big wide world beyond.

Labour Leave shares a number of viewpoints from external commentators, both Leave and Remain, without necessarily endorsing any of the viewpoints therein.

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