The United Kingdom leaves the EU on the 29th of March – we all know that. At the moment, the Government, Parliament, the media and commentariat are all tied up in the high drama of how we get through the next 44 days. Will we have a deal? What kind of deal? Will no deal be OK? (Answer – yes, of course, as I explained on this site recently.)
Brexit in and of itself is simply the legal termination of a treaty. The 17.4 million people who voted to leave will surely celebrate that event on the evening of the 29th, but what really matters is what we do next. It’s worth reminding ourselves why people voted to leave. The biggest survey of voters on referendum day told us that the number one reason was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.” Well, that principle is about to be put into action. So how shall we use our newly restituted sovereignty?
Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP (for another few weeks, at least) set out in his 2016 book What Next: How to get the best from Brexit what is probably the most compelling and comprehensive vision of where we should go. He says that “there is no purpose in leaving the EU if we simply replicate its mistakes and build our own version of Brussels corporatism” and sets out what The Economist called “a vision of a more liberal, open and less regulated Britain”. Mr Hannan talks about Brexit being an “unfrozen moment”, when old assumptions unfreeze and provide a window of opportunity to make transformative changes. He sets out how Brexit provides us with the opportunity to disapply tariffs, simplify our regulatory system, localise decision-making and reduce taxes. It’s well worth a read even three years after it was published.
Then there’s Oliver Letwin’s recently-published Red Tape Initiative. This aimed to bring together both Leavers and Remainers across all three main parties, to identify the most important, least controversial opportunities for cutting red tape in a post-Brexit world. As the name suggests, it is very much focussed on business and takes a sector-by-sector approach in looking at detailed legal changes that the Government could implement. At 148 pages long, it is probably some of the most in-depth thinking that has been done on how Parliament should re-shape our laws and regulations in this area. Altogether, its proposed changes would be likely to have a dramatic effect on freeing businesses from burdensome and ineffective regulation, but individually many of the changes are tactical.
And, there is Cutting the Gordian Knot by Iain Murray and Rory Broomfield, which looks at ways the UK could pursue free market and global trade policies post-Brexit, including the idea of the UK joining NAFTA, what should happen to farming subsidies, how to produce cheap energy and what should replace the European Arrest Warrant. These all provide some of the answers we need, but none has been picked up by the high-profile politicians who will need to explain, champion and implement a post-Brexit vision for this country.
With less than 50 days to go, now would be an excellent time for our current and future leaders to begin spending some of their time thinking and, crucially, talking about what we are going to do with our newfound freedoms. There is so much we could do – it’s time to start setting out the options.
Lewis Feilder is on the Conservative Party’s Parliamentary Candidates’ list and works as a management consultant in London. Follow him on twitter: @LewisFeilder