The North won’t stand for a half-baked Brexit

The North won’t stand for a half-baked Brexit

Nearly two years ago, voters delivered a clear instruction to their politicians. They instructed the government to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union and, in so doing, to take back control of borders, laws, money and trade policy.

I was one of the 65% of people in my region that voted Leave. While each of us did so for different reasons – whether it be free trade, national security, the bureaucratic burden on business or concerns about immigration – there was one belief that united us all. We all believed that the UK could do a better job of running its own affairs than unelected officials in Brussels could, including when it comes to customs and trade policy.

While the Remain campaign’s Project Fear would have had us believe a vote to Leave would lead to an immediate recession and countless job losses – neither of which have materialised – the Vote Leave campaign consistently highlighted the economic benefits of global free trade: benefits that can only be materialised if we leave the EU properly, including the Customs Union.

Given the credence of the now disproven economic claims of prominent Remainers, maybe it’s time to give the positive pro-Brexit arguments the same chance. Whilst some in Westminster try to re-fight the referendum, we are cracking on with our plans to capitalise on this fantastic opportunity.

I have already set the ball rolling in this sense by asking the Government to give Teesport in my area the status of a Free Port when we leave the EU. But in order to do so, we need to take back control of our trade policy. And that means leaving the Customs Union.

Free ports are areas that offer special exemptions from certain burdensome regulations and customs charges that make our country uncompetitive in the global market. The problem is, they can’t exist in any meaningful way inside the EU or while we’re subject to the common external tariff.

Such a policy could create thousands of jobs in the Tees Valley and, if successful, could be replicated in all of the UK’s port cities, making this an example of a post-Brexit, pro-Brexit economic policy which would benefit the Brexit-voting areas of the regions the most.

At its most basic it’s about creating and sustaining jobs for people. More fundamentally, taking back control of our trade policy is essential if we want to restore faith in the political process. The Brexit vote and last year’s general election saw large numbers of people who don’t usually vote heading to the polls for the first time in years, and in some cases for the first time ever.

If we are to maintain their faith in our democratic system, their choices must be delivered. If we don’t deliver on the people’s mandate, voters will seek revenge at the ballot box. So that must mean delivering Brexit in full.

Photocredit: Yaffa Phillips