David Fuller's view -
Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, was quite right yesterday to speak of Britain’s post-Brexit trading potential.Leaving the EU, he argued, means we can not only forge new free-trade arrangements but also make the wider case for liberalisation. Given that the economy has not collapsed since the referendum, and that so many non-EU countries have shown interest in doing business with the UK, there is plenty of reason for optimism. Looking at the state of affairs across the Channel, it increasingly seems as if Britain dodged a bullet by voting to leave.
Take Germany. The country prides itself on prudence and stability, often lecturing southern Europeans on their profligacy. Yet financial markets are gripped with fear over Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, pillars of the European banking system. Those fears reflect the awkward fact that Germany’s supposedly conservative banks have been big buyers of exotic and thus risky bonds. The markets also remember that in the last financial crisis, Germany’s ultra-respectable regional savings banks were revealed as reckless lenders and had to be bailed out by taxpayers.
In this context, the notion that Frankfurt might replace London as the centre of European banking seems incredible. And while Germany may be Europe’s biggest economy, its problems are not unusual: it is simply the latest eurozone country to be left fearing for its banks. That is telling, a reminder that the currency’s single interest rate for so many diverse economies fosters instability, not least by leaving a high-growth economy such as Germany awash with cheap money.
Will German banks need another bail-out? Will the eurozone survive in its current form? The EU clearly faces major structural challenges as well as that raised by Brexit. We could add the refugee crisis to the list – and the rise of nationalist parties proves that the desire for greater control over national borders is far from unique to Britain. By choosing to vote out, the UK increasingly looks farsighted rather than, as some bitter Remainers have complained, petulant.
The Tory conference begins on Sunday and it is a chance to spread Dr Fox’s message. Brexit, if pursued cleverly, can offer an example to the world of the advantages of free trade. For Britain, it may eventually mean a more competitive and outward looking economy. The future of the UK is global, not just European.
This is a good editorial and I am hoping to see a reasonably united and confident Tory Party Conference, commencing on Sunday, although there is clearly a Hard versus Soft Brexit divide. Some Remain voters say people did not know what they were voting for. I disagree and find that patronising. I believe the majority who voted for Brexit want us to leave the EU and then negotiate terms of trade with Europe and the rest of the world.
Robust discussions are fine but the Conservative Party will provide better leadership at an important time if it concludes the Conference with a united policy.
See also: May’s Real Opposition Lies in Tory Ranks as Brexit Splits Emerge, from Bloomberg)
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