SO WHEN WILL WE LEAVE THE EUROPEAN UNION?
When we voted back in June whether to leave or remain in the European Union, we were threatened with all sorts of consequences if we voted Leave. We did, but despite that the stock market is now higher than before ? and that?s important as that affects all our pension funds ? and other issues such as national security risks have been shown to be false. Indeed, far from EU countries not sharing security information with us, Brussels have already asked the United Kingdom to coordinate intelligence across the whole of Europe once we leave the EU.
Which brings us to timing; when will we leave the EU? Theresa May, our new Prime Minister, will want Britain out of the EU before the next General Election in May 2020 and she will want time to show we have made a success of it.
The first hurdle is to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. That gives formal notice of our leaving and we will then have two years to negotiate our exit. But European politics might affect the timetable.
France is currently even more Eurosceptic than us and President Francois Hollande is facing challenges from politicians who want a similar referendum to our own. So he will not agree right now to a mutually beneficial exit as it will make it only too easy for his political rivals to argue for French exit (known now throughout France as ?Frexit?). France has its General Election in April/May of next year. Theresa May might delay invoking Article 50 until after then when France will no longer be so concerned about making life difficult for the British.
As for the Germans, their elections are in the autumn of 2017, but Angela Merkel is less of a problem. She is more pragmatic and has already said that as Britain is the biggest export market in Europe for German cars and machinery, she wants nothing that could jeopardise trade between the EU and the United Kingdom.
So what type of deal will we be asking for? The ?European Single Market? is the name given by Brussels for the EU Customs Union. Any customs union allows for trade between its member countries, but sets common tariffs between the union and other nations. That would mean that the UK, if it were still a member of the European Single Market, would be forbidden to negotiate separate trade deals with the US and other nations. That is unacceptable. Moreover, the Single Market also allows for free movement of people between its members. While we need and welcome some immigration, I strongly believe that the UK should control its own borders to decide whom we let in and whom we do not. And I believe that many people ? 59% of voters in Lichfield District ? who voted for Brexit had that in mind too.
Instead, we should seek a free trade agreement with the Single Market which would ensure zero or very low import duties between us. Despite the rhetoric of EU officials like Jean Claude Junker, European politicians like Angela Merkel who hold the real power are keen to achieve this too.
As the terms of our Brexit become clearer, the final grounds for our uncertainty will lift and the economy ? already one of the fastest growing of all the large developed nations ? will expand still further.
The decision we made back in June was not for the next few months, it was for a generation and on that basis will it be judged. I am confident that historians 50 years from now will say the decision we made was right and long overdue.