Brexit presents a rare opportunity

Having avoided the disruption of a nine-week leadership race, Conservative minds are now fully focused on the task at hand: delivering the best possible Brexit.

Whether they supported Leave or Remain, every member of the Government is now signed up to the Prime Minister’s mantra: ‘Brexit means Brexit’.

As the turmoil of the last few weeks fades, we’re starting to learn more of the opportunities that are made available by leaving the EU.

Foremost is the potential for free trade between the UK and non-EU countries, as we withdraw from the EU’s protectionist tariffs.

Liam Fox has been on a tour of North America this week, meeting politicians and businesses to declare that ‘the UK is open for business like never before’.

His new department is still being built, but has already announced three new trade offices (in Minneapolis, San Diego and Raleigh), and India, China, South Korea and Mercosur among others have declared interest in striking free trade deals.

For those deals to be discussed in detail, of course, will require a clear idea of the broad type of relationship Britain will have with its EU neighbours.

While some are keen to stay a full member of the single Market, political reality would surely make any continuation of free movement unacceptable.

One upside of avoiding full single Market membership would be greater regulatory flexibility – over the coming months, we should expect the newly beefed up Business Department, as well as other parts of Whitehall, to study in detail the possibilities for reducing red tape costs on business.

As well as economic benefits, there will be a democratic bonus from Brexit. Voters have long been frustrated by the feeling that no matter who they vote for, too many things stay the same.

That was in part due to Westminster’s tendency towards fashionable consensus, and in part due to the outsized power of civil servants and various quangos over public policy – but it was also due to the fact that Brussels controlled issues like migration, farming, fisheries, environmental regulation, trade and so on. Our politicians are about to find that the levers in front of them are more powerful than they were.

That presents risks, of course – mess it up and you can’t blame distant Eurocrats any more – but if also offers a great opportunity. The party which manages to surprise the people by actually changing things for the better, without excuses and delays, could reap a huge electoral reward.

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