Trading on WTO rules will be a liberation for the UK – and the Labour leadership needs to embrace it

Trading on WTO rules will be a liberation for the UK – and the Labour leadership needs to embrace it

Brendan Chilton is co-author with Lord Lilley of 30 Truths about leaving on WTO terms: Why WTO offers a safer haven than the Backstop, which is published today by Global Britain and Labour Leave. 

The tone of the language we so often hear and the words we frequently read associated with trading on World Trade Organisation terms is negative and promotes images of chaos and disorder. All of this is based on deliberate fear.

Phrases such as ‘crashing out on WTO terms’ and ‘no-deal Brexit’ and ‘being forced to revert to the WTO option’ conjure up an image of a future in which the United Kingdom loses out and becomes an economic basket case. The terms are frequently and loudly spouted by those campaigning for a second referendum and are supported by biased voices within the media. Their objective is to determine that the United Kingdom must Remain in some shape or form entangled within the European Union even after the democratic decision of the people to Leave is implemented.

The reality of the situation, however, is that a United Kingdom operating under World Trade Organisation rules will be one of the greatest liberating experiences to achieved by this country in modern times. The United Kingdom always was a global free-trading nation – and now it will be once again, participating in every corner of the world. Far from being a perilous course, World Trade terms are a golden opportunity to reignite the industrial and commercial might of this country and it is a course that the Labour Party should completely support.

The Labour Party is not primarily a liberation movement. It is not primarily a social movement or a movement for emancipation. The Labour Party’s primary and fundamental nature and purpose can be understood by examining the title and description of the party – Labour. The Labour Party has been, is, and always will be a party of labour. Of work.

Its root and brain are an element of economy and its purpose is the representation of labour within the political institutions and a democratic framework of the nation state. Its motivation is the betterment of the lot of labour within the country and the world. Its purpose is to protect the advancement of labour and secure more for labour. This is achieved through an economy that is wealth-generating.

At its heart, Labour is a party of industry and commerce and, yes, of finance too. In the modern world, those factors are units of the economy not restricted solely to Europe but are the norm the world over. Labour’s standard should therefore be world trade and not an obsession with a Single Market serving the most developed, most privileged, most advanced part of the world shielded and protected by a great wall called a Customs Union.

The language of the Labour Party must turn from fear and concern to optimism and hope: the optimism that once again Labour can truly be the party of labour by embracing trading terms outlined under the World Trade Organisation to revitalise sectors of our economy, to embrace new markets, spread the protections and securities our workers enjoy to the rest of the world and ensure a wealth-generating economy improves the lives of people in this country and others.

Labour’s radical economic programme outlined in the 2017 manifesto is one that would restore industry, spread commerce and excite finance. In order for the manifesto to be delivered in the most productive way that manufactures growth, the Labour Party cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister and it cannot support an ongoing relationship with the European Union that grants economic jurisdiction to Brussels. The next Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer must be in a position to exercise all the levers of the state and tools as his disposal to ensure our economic programme can deliver for the many in this country and inspire others across the world in a true act of solidarity.

It is right that the Labour leadership is resisting calls for a second referendum on our membership of the European Union. It is now very unlikely that a second referendum will take place and this is, in part, due to the battle against one being fought by the leadership of the Labour Party. Now victory on that front is in sight, it is the time for the leadership to focus its attention on the next battle in this great struggle for the revival of our economy and the prospects of this nation in the long term.

The Labour leadership now needs to fully embrace with heart and hand a Brexit that enables the United Kingdom to be free from the shackles of Brussels and which allows our country to walk onto the platform of World Trade. By doing this, Labour will set the course for the future, it will demonstrate its ambition and ideals and will ensure that the next Labour government can embark upon a radical national economic agenda that transforms this country from a nation secluded in Europe to a nation manufactured and secured in global trade in the modern world.