Leaving the EU on WTO terms will make our businesses more competitive and innovative

Leaving the EU on WTO terms will make our businesses more competitive and innovative

At the end of last year, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked the UK as the eighth most competitive country in the world, praising its ‘very well-functioning markets, a top innovation ecosystem and vibrant business dynamism’.

However, the top-performing countries in the 2018 study by the World Economic Forum were dominated by non-EU countries including the United States, Singapore, Switzerland and Japan.

Despite this, politicians, businesses and the media appear to cling on to our ties to Europe. Leaving without a deal with Europe has been brandished as the height of irresponsibility, falling off the cliff edge and other such fearsome but conjectural words. Yet in reality 98 per cent of world trade occurs within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The UK is a member of this global platform.

For my companies the horizons have always stretched far beyond continental Europe. Corrocoat, for instance, exports 68% of its anti-corrosion products globally and less than 10% of that goes to Europe, whilst Glassflake exports over 80% of its output with only circa 7% to Europe. We have operations in some of the most exciting, fastest-growing places in the world such as South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, China and the United States.

The EU has stifled growth with its rules and regulations, reduced appetite for competition and hindered the sort of innovation and entrepreneurship that has made both our sister companies Corrocoat and Glassflake success stories.

Companies do need to prepare for a WTO exit, but the myths around a no-deal scenario and fear of the unknown have wrongly led us to believe that vital sectors in our economy are at risk.

In actual fact, departing on WTO terms will act as a catalyst for businesses to become more competitive and more innovative. Gerard Lyons, a leading British economist, has argued that stifling EU regulation has made UK exporters less competitive and less productive in global markets whilst also doing little to increase wages. Only once the UK is open to trade with the world can we reverse this trend.

The IMF estimates that 90 per cent of global growth in the next 10 to 15 years is likely to come from outside the EU. If the UK goes back to bulldog Britain instead of the pussycat Britain it has become under the EU, it can be part of this global success story. We should embrace such an opportunity instead of listening to the hearsay and doom-mongering.