Suella Fernandes: Brexit gives us a huge opportunity to do things better
While the media focuses on the ins and outs of negotiations, we must not lose sight of the huge opportunities on offer, writes Suella Fernandes
In June 2016, the British voted decisively to take back control of their country’s destiny. This was the right decision. The UK never felt entirely at home in an EU. An EU intent on further centralisation around its core project – the euro.
While our EU membership served us at the time, there was at its heart an irreconcilable difference on the final end point. This was apparent at the time we chose not to join the euro, but has grown over the years. The British people recognised this and made their choice. We want to be good friends and partners with the EU but we can best do that as a fully independent sovereign state.
Regaining control over our economy, trade, law and borders is a very exciting project that presents huge opportunities to rethink how we govern ourselves and do things better. The government is getting on with. Much progress has been made but there is much more to be done.
While the media focus on the daily ins and outs of the negotiations, legislation at Westminster and other consequentials, it is worth standing back and looking at what we have and can achieve.
Firstly, we have an agreed path to exit. We have started negotiations via Article 50 and have agreed with the EU27 that both sides wish to see a final trade agreement. This is important for both sides. Obviously, this is a negotiation that entails the UK putting its case forcefully. There will be discussions and compromises.
Secondly, we have put in train the domestic legislation necessary to leave the EU. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill currently before Parliament is a highly professional piece of legislation that gives UK businesses and citizens’ certainty. We will have a fully functioning set of UK regulations the day we leave the EU.
We now have the processes in place to leave both at an EU level and at a domestic level. That is however just the process. What is important is how we use this new opportunity to secure our future prosperity and democracy.
The UK has always been a trading nation. In the 19th century the UK led the world on free trade and we can do so again. Regaining our seat at the WTO gives us a great opportunity to advocate free trade where previously our interests were subsumed in the EU.
Beyond this we are already in talks with the EU27 concerning a new trade agreement. There are however huge opportunities in the rest of the world. Lord Price, a former Trade Minister has already confirmed that 60 states with trade relations with the EU wish to roll over their agreements with the UK. There are also many states where we have no current agreements which have already expressed an interest in dealing with the UK. Old friends such as Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and India as well as important economies such as Brazil. There are big opportunities for the UK in areas that will increasingly form a larger proportion of the world’s economy.
Beyond the economy, the second major reason the British people were right to vote to leave the EU was democracy. While members of the EU, the majority of our laws were made in a system over which our Parliamentary democracy had little say. This sense of powerlessness created a distance between the voters and the politicians. No longer. The UK Parliament will soon be back in control of the UK’s borders, our regional policy, fishing, agriculture and much more. This is great news for our democracy. We will have politicians in Westminster that can really effect change.
We are already seeing a new vitality in our democracy. There is a lively discussion underway as to what a UK fishing and agriculture policy should look like. We can redesign a UK regional policy, ending the absurd system whereby the UK taxpayer sent money to Brussels only to get a smaller portion back covered in flags and strings. When the EU’s free movement policy comes to an end we can redesign our immigration system that is fair to everyone in the country, helping UK businesses train and skill Britons while still attracting the brightest and best to our shores.
Across the board the vote by the British people has given us a huge opportunity to do things better. This is an exciting time in British politics and I intend to do my bit to ensure this opportunity is not wasted.
Suella Fernandes is Conservative MP for Fareham and chair of the European Research Group