On the 1st January 2019, there will be 87 days before we leave the European Union. There is, therefore, much to look forward to in the coming year.
Since before the referendum in 2016, we have been bombarded with endless scare stories from Project Fear. Forecasts of everything from aeroplanes being unable to land to an apocalyptic Mars bar shortage have been and are being debunked.
By subduing the scaremongering, we can begin to look ahead at the wonderful opportunities of a clean, genuine Brexit.
Eliminating tariffs can lower consumer costs. Goods sold within the EU are 20% more expensive on average than market prices outside, because the high protectionist walls of the Customs Union allow internal producers to bump up their prices. Free trade would reduce the prices of non-European goods by removing these tariffs. It would also force European sellers to reduce their prices to compete with global competitors, providing cheaper produce for all consumers.
We can do more to support our producers at home. We can boost rural productivity by allowing farmers to embrace the latest innovations, freed from the EU’s extreme technological risk aversion. We can use the money we currently spend on the Common Agricultural Policy for a generous scheme to reward farmers for the environmental and public good that they do. We can direct public procurement towards them and we can encourage import substitution to make the UK more self-sufficient in our food.
The Christmas season is a perfect opportunity to visit local shops, supporting local farmers and businesses by buying their produce. Buying local is immensely important, so it was encouraging to see that, when polled, 51% of consumers would buy the same amount of British produce (and 27% would buy more) when given the choice against an imported alternative.
All this is possible without signing up to a Withdrawal Agreement which leaves us a rule-taker from the EU and sees us send £39 billion to Brussels for nothing in return. We can instead spend that money on our own priorities, investing in transport and other infrastructure projects to promote growth. We can intensify our preparations for leaving without a deal which – as well as being a sensible insurance policy – increases our chances of securing a good one.
Challenges undoubtedly lay ahead, but I am confident that we can meet them and enjoy a freer and more prosperous future. I wish all my constituents a very Happy Christmas and a successful New Year.