Former Australian PM: Leaders Need to Make the Most of Brexit

As the House of Commons votes today on 15 separate amendments on the EU Withdrawal Bill, eyes are drawn to a Westminster struggling to take full advantage of the opportunities that Brexit present the United Kingdom.

With less than a year to go until the UK leaves the EU, it’s unclear what the British Government wants from the European Union, whether some MPs want a second referendum and if others even accept the first. The debate is bogged down by divisions and complaining that is detracting from the real issue; how to get the best possible future for Britain.

A customs union with the European Union is not our ticket to success and does certainly not provide the passport for a global Britain. A Brexit that leaves us half in, yet half out, subject to EU laws and regulations is not the Brexit the British public voted form.

We must leave the customs union to be able to fully prosper; establish our own rules and our own pathway to success.

The former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott today assured the British people that a country does not need a customs union with neighbours to prosper. Mr Abbott pointed to the fact that Australia has no free trade deal, nor customs union with the EU and still trades nearly $100bn a year with Europe.

Since the 1970s Australia has been forced to look beyond its historical neighbours, forming economic and strategic bonds with countries in the Asian region, the Americas and Europe. As we joined the European Economic Community, Australia was spreading its wings, surviving and thriving under the WTO rules.

Mr Abbott referenced this as he urged the British people to be more positive about their prospects:

“My advice to Britain is: Stop fretting! It is possible to trade successfully under the WTO rules which already govern 55 per cent of Britain’s exports; and it is possible to do good deals with your main trading partners once you are free to do so, as Australia’s experience abundantly demonstrates.”

We shouldn’t forget that Britain is still the best place from which to export to Europe or service to Europe. The UK has the freest markets, an established legal and political system, a strong tax system, high quality of standards and a can-do attitude.

But most importantly we will no longer have EU officials trying to harmonise our competitive advantage away from us.

These qualities will position us perfectly to strike trade deals with anyone we choose to, without waiting for 27 other countries to sign up too. This includes Australia, who Mr Abbott says will “mean a dynamic increase in trade opportunities between our two countries without disadvantaging anyone else.”

Unlike many European countries, Australia and the UK are like-minded with similar systems, languages and standards of living. There will be no need for a laborious negotiation, it may even be as simple as saying that there will be no quotas or tariffs on any goods traded between both countries, no exceptions, no carve-outs, nothing.

We have similarities in our workplace protections, job qualifications and product and service standards. There will not be the need that we often see with the European Union to get bogged down in details of legal systems, job credentials and standards and workplace protections because they are already extremely aligned.

Brexit is an opportunity. We must not forget that there are countries outside Europe who are similar to us, with similar systems and all of whom are willing to do deals with us.

The politicians in the House of Commons today who are voting for us to remain in a customs union with the European Union must have greater faith in our ability to succeed. Leaving the customs union is our pathway to success and our ticket to free trade deals with the wider world.