‘Nobody can be left in any doubt – the UK is leaving the single market and customs union’

The Prime Minister’s speech this week astonished many in the UK and elsewhere in the EU for its clarity.

The Prime Minister made clear that the UK will be close friends, allies and trading partners with our European neighbours, but we will be a country in which we pass our own laws and govern ourselves.  Article 50 will be invoked by end-March next year; a Great Repeal Bill will remove the European Communities Act from the statute book; British law will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster.

She also derided the false dichotomy between hard and soft Brexit, which is, in May’s words, ‘too often propagated by people who, I am afraid to say, have still not accepted the result of the referendum.’

As a result, now nobody can be left in any doubt that the UK is leaving the single market and the EU customs union. Nor should this come as any surprise.

Article 50 is a nuisance because, once invoked, it restricts our voting rights. It prevents the UK and other member states negotiating nation-to-nation, and it still does not guarantee an agreement at the end of the process.

This does not weaken the UK position, however, since we could still make the same generous, simple and bold offer on exit: tariff free access for all EU exports into the UK, and complete access to our services sector, as now – if they will do the same.

This is an offer to let the EU maintain the trading advantage they enjoy with us now.

How would they respond? Would they really want to slap on the tariffs and start a trade war, just to punish us?  Are they going to treat the UK worse than say Canada or South Korea, who already have free trade agreements but without free movement of people or contributions to the EU budget?

The EU would be hurting their own industries and their own people more than us if so.  Every EU country has a significant and higher proportion of their jobs dependent upon their trade with the UK than we in the UK have with each of them.

Furthermore, the £8 billion in extra revenue the UK government would raise from import duties could be used to cut UK business taxes and other costs, and to support inward investors like Nissan.

Most importantly, most businesses, here and abroad, want any uncertainty to be as limited as possible.  Even the head of the German BDI is saying this.  That underlines the advantage of a quick and simple Brexit.

The principles we need to see are simple.  Complexity only arises from the sheer number of issues to be resolved. A simple withdrawal agreement can provide for interim arrangements, and then space for both sides to resolve those issues under far less pressure.

Either we agree this with the EU, or we tell them better to have no agreement at all. But we should not let EU indecision or bad faith inflict endless uncertainty on us, or on the rest of the continent.

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