Any move by the EU to punish the UK with trade restrictions or new barriers would be an act of self-harm

Any move by the EU to punish the UK with trade restrictions or new barriers would be an act of self-harm

As the flow of economic data continues to reassure the UK that a DIY recession is off the cards and the apocalyptic warnings of Project Fear begin to fade from memory, the UK must turn all its attention to the gruelling negotiations that will lead to our departure from the European Union.

The Remain camp was successful in reminding the UK of our close economic ties with Europe, the fact that the EU is our largest trading partner and that the single market allows fairly unrestricted access to 500 million customers. And it is clear that the best deal would involve barrier-free access for trade in goods, passporting rights for services and continued cooperation on security.

The challenge now is in balancing the interests of the economy, and access to the single market, with controls on migration. This is by no means an unrealistic goal, however.

Following the referendum campaign, many have been giving the impression that it is only the UK that will suffer if the negotiations result in tariffs on trade. But truth is that individual members of the EU have as much, if not more, at stake if their trading relationship with the UK is damaged.

The Civitas analysis, published today, shows that all of our 27 EU trading partners have a higher proportion of their population employed in jobs supported by UK trade than the UK has supported by trade with that country. 22 of our EU partners actually have more jobs linked to UK trade than we do with trade with them.

By our estimates, for example, German trade accounts for 2.4 per cent of UK jobs (0.8 million), but UK trade accounts for 3.2 per cent of German Jobs (1.3 million). Similar comparisons hold true for all of the major EU economies.

The UK should be highlighting to each of the countries in the EU that they are net beneficiaries of our trading relationship. The British public is aware that over 3 million jobs in the UK are associated with our EU trading relationship. The UK should now make sure that the EU public knows that the UK is a key trading partner whose business is linked to almost 6 million jobs across its 27 members.

The UK needs to be making the case for strong economic relations with the EU and pointing out to each of our European partners that we are happy to trade freely, without barriers, for the benefit of their economies as well as ours.

With elections looming in Germany and France, and with Italy’s government under significant pressure in the build-up to a highly contentious referendum, the UK should be showing that it is the citizens of each EU country that benefit from good trading relations with the UK.

These negotiations, despite being led by the EU, will be powered by national governments. It is to each of our European counterparts, to the citizens of Europe, that we should be making clear the benefits of a strong mutual economy-focused agreement on exiting the EU.

With much of Europe far from recovered from the 2008 crisis, any moves by our European partners to punish the UK, by restricting trade or imposing new barriers, will be an act of self-harm, risking their own jobs and growth.

When the Remain camp argued that economic disaster would follow a vote to leave they argued it was because the UK would be choosing to cut economic ties. The UK has made no such decision. The UK wanted out of the politics of the EU and free movement of labour. Ministers will likely make every effort to maintain the closest economic ties possible while respecting the view of the electorate.

Theresa May has made it clear that the UK intends to be a global leader in free trade. Any restrictions on free trade imposed after the UK leaves will be those imposed by the EU in a protectionist frenzy. They will be putting the idealism of Brussels-based bureaucrats above the jobs and well-being of the people of Europe.