Brexit offers no common wealth
In my previous column I wrote of the UK’s need to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union.
Brexiteers argue that the opportunities presented by Britain’s departure from the EU are immense and that leaving the Customs Union will allow our businesses the freedom to grow that they don’t have by remaining in it. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Germany exports nearly five times as much to China as the UK does, but is not held back by remaining in the Customs Union. Our trade with the rest of the world is not hindered by our membership of the EU.
If we want to deliver a stronger Brexit it makes sense to remain within the Customs Union.
Another interesting point related to so-called ‘Brexit opportunities’ is the government’s plan to set aside funds to promote business relations between the UK and many of the Commonwealth countries.
Clearly this is a welcome initiative, but what struck me was how all of this could have been done before Brexit.
EU support could have been brought in via the European Investment Bank (EIB), which outside of Europe supports the EU development and cooperation policies, and a large number of these Commonwealth countries are eligible for EIB financing under its 2014-2020 mandate.
Exports from the UK to Pakistan have also seen a huge rise since the EU’s decision to award in 2014 the country with the beneficial trade status known as GSP+.
Leaving the EU means the UK will no longer be party to this and will have to renegotiate terms with Pakistan, as well as the other 50-plus countries that deals are soon to be or already are in place with.
When you piece together the evidence these so-called ‘Brexit opportunities’ suddenly become prospects that could have happened without the need for our departure. As the evidence mounts the question will not be of opportunities, but of how much we begin to regret leaving the EU - Regrexit, not Brexit.