A Fake Brexit would not allow politicians to deliver the change which people voted for last year

A Fake Brexit would not allow politicians to deliver the change which people voted for last year

2016 was the year we voted to take back control. 2017 can be the year we take the big, bold, progressive steps to change Britain decisively for the better. But we politicians need to be clear about what’s truly important if we’re to make the most of this historic opportunity.

The first thing to get clear is the big picture. The vote on 23rd June last year was not simply a rejection of the democracy-denying, growth-diminishing, job-destroying EU, it was a vote for wholesale change. As Theresa May has pointed out, it was “a quiet revolution… in which millions of our fellow citizens stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored anymore… a turning point for our country… A once-in-a-generation chance to change the direction of our nation for good.”

It’s because I wholeheartedly agree with the Prime Minister’s analysis that I helped set up a new campaigning organisation – Change Britain – to make the case for the reform we need. We’re a cross-party group but we have a consistent message. Politicians must respect the result of the referendum and deliver the radical change the country voted for.

The referendum result exposed to everyone’s view some of the deep problems that our country needs to address – problems that the public experience in their daily lives but we politicians haven’t done enough to address.

We are still far too unequal a society, with wealth and power concentrated in too few hands. Our economy is still too dependent on financial services and we don’t invest enough in science and technology. Working class voices are crowded out of our economic debate. We have relied too much on cheap imported labour, which has meant wages for working people have been kept too low and we haven’t taken the right steps to improve productivity.

The Bank of England’s monetary policy has made wealthy owners of property even richer at the same time as our chronic shortage of affordable homes has got worse. University vice-chancellors pay themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds a year but technical education doesn’t get the investment it needs and there aren’t enough good school places. Government squanders billions on vanity projects every year while our tried and trusted NHS needs more funding.

The good news is that leaving the European Union makes it easier for us to rebalance our economy, invest in science, technology and technical education, control migration, build the homes we need and invest more in our NHS. We need to keep our focus on those direct and tangible benefits which come from taking back control.

And we need to appreciate that the sooner we leave the EU, the more we can do to deliver the change people voted for.

Those supporters of the EU who still haven’t come to terms with the referendum result want to delay and drag out the process of leaving. They often change their demands – sometimes they insist we should stay in the single market, on other occasions they stress the importance of the customs union, at yet other points they talk about transition arrangements or ten-year-long trade talks – but they have one simple goal: they want to complicate and obfuscate the process in the hope that the public appetite for change will dissipate so they can secure a relationship with the EU which is as close as possible to the status quo.

That’s why we mustn’t miss the wood for the trees. That’s why we need to deliver a Full Brexit, not settle for Fake Brexit.

Once Article 50 is triggered, we should be very clear about our simple, straightforward, generous approach to leaving. We don’t want or need to be in the single market – outside we can control our own borders, laws and taxes. Inside we’re trapped. We don’t want to be bound by being members of the customs union. Outside we can negotiate new trade deals with emerging economies. Inside we’re trapped. And we don’t need to waste months talking about new tariffs. We don’t have any at the moment with Europe, we don’t want to impose any and attempts to over-complicate the issue are a trap.

If we guarantee the rights of all EU citizens currently here to stay, pledge to continue our role as the principal European defender of NATO’s eastern border, offer to continue co-operation on science funding and agree to respect EU regulations when selling to their market then we could – quickly – reach an amicable agreement.

And then we could get on with the work of change – the radical reforms to domestic policy which should be our mission for the future. That is what I will be arguing for this year alongside my colleagues in Change Britain.