Ignore the naysayers and tune out the babble: a bright post-Brexit future for Britain is on track

Ignore the naysayers and tune out the babble: a bright post-Brexit future for Britain is on track

2017 has been quite a year for Brexit. With all the drama of Article 50, the General Election, the negotiations in Brussels and nail-biting votes in Parliament, it is easy forget just how much has happened over the last twelve months.

And indeed, much to celebrate. Parliament voted to trigger Article 50 with an overwhelming majority of 372, with the Bill surviving numerous attempts from pro-Remain MPs and the House of Lords to attach amendments to it. The formal process of the UK leaving the European Union then began on 29th March this year, when Sir Tim Barrow delivered Theresa May’s letter triggering Article 50 to European Council President Donald Tusk.

In June’s snap General Election, 85 per cent of voters voted for parties pledging to respect the referendum result and leave the single market and Customs Union. The negotiations got underway over the Summer with “sufficient progress” on the first round of talks achieved by December, something which many pundits had written off as impossible.

And this week, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, the vital piece of legislation which will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and restore the supremacy of the British legal system, succeeded in passing through Committee stage with only one defeat – on a ‘meaningful vote’ on the Withdrawal Agreement which the Government had committed to hold anyway.

Other amendments were comfortably seen off, including one designed to keep the UK in the Customs Union which was defeated by 206 votes, and a Liberal Democrat amendment calling for a second referendum which was defeated by 296 votes, with a mere 23 MPs voting in favour of it.

Those still trying to frustrate the referendum result have had minimal success, from the cabal of former Blairites – Mandelson, Campbell, Adonis and Blair himself – to the Lib Dems who saw their vote share fall to under 8 per cent in the General Election.

Claims that the UK would break up as a result of Brexit also fell apart as the SNP suffered heavy losses in the General Election, losing 21 out of 56 seats, putting to bed any calls from Nicola Sturgeon for a second referendum on Scottish Independence. Northern Ireland’s position was also confirmed to be secure after the Democratic Unionist Party secured changes to the phase one deal, to ensure that Northern Ireland could not be driven apart from the rest of the UK as a result of any Brexit deal.

Meanwhile, the British economy has continued to confound the dire predictions of Project Fear, with unemployment at a 42-year low, UK industrial output up and manufacturing order books at a three-decade high, and London continuing to top global financial centre rankings. To top it all off, the UK moved up to top spot for the very first time in Forbes’ Best Country for Business rankings for 2018.

The Brexit deal was not everything the UK wanted, but nor was it everything the EU wanted. That is the nature of negotiations. The ‘Brexit bill’ of £35bn is a huge amount of money, but it is significantly less than what the EU was originally demanding, and it is also worth remembering that we would have handed that amount of money over – net – in just three years, had we voted to stay. The equivalent ‘Remain bill’ by 2030 would have been over £120bn.

The UK also secured favourable terms on many areas of citizens’ rights like healthcare, family reunion and the right to carry out systematic criminal records checks before EU citizens are granted settled status. While the ECJ’s authority will not end immediately, this is far better than the EU’s original demands for indefinite ECJ jurisdiction as the price for any deal on citizens’ rights.

That is not to say that there are no challenges ahead for Brexit in the coming year. While it was important that a deal was done this month with the EU – particularly as it gives much reassurance to EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa – it is essential that the UK now uses this momentum to push ahead on a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU which does not leave us tethered to EU laws as some sort of client state.

If a Brexit deal left us unable to control our own laws, this would undermine the fundamental purpose of Brexit and could also prevent us from signing deep and far-reaching trade deals with new partners around the rest of the world, as well as making the changes necessary to make our economy more streamlined at home.

And there are some in the UK who have made it clear that they will continue to try to obstruct the process, no matter how well the negotiations are going. They will be ruthless at exploiting any opportunities or moments of weakness, so it is vital that those who respect the vote of the British people in the referendum remain vigilant and ensure that our democracy is not allowed to be subverted.

Nonetheless, we can look back on 2017 as the year in which the UK officially announced its decision to regain its full independence and we successfully started out on the path towards standing on our own two feet on the world stage once again. It has been a good year and we have much to quietly celebrate.

I wish all BrexitCentral readers an enjoyable and relaxing Christmas and I hope everyone has a prosperous and healthy 2018.