The Leave campaign are often derided as ‘isolationist’, which is frankly a fallacy. At a recent debate the accusation was thrown at me that as a campaign we want to ‘drag the United Kingdom out into the Atlantic’, which if you ask me sounds like an unnecessarily costly enterprise. How would one source a tugboat large enough? How expensive would the repairs on the Channel Tunnel be? But I jest, it is clear that the only people who envision a Brexit where Britain has been dragged out into the Atlantic are the In campaign. Perhaps they imagine it will come just after war, disease and pestilence! Nonetheless, joking aside, the prospect of a metaphorical tugboat is intriguing, so let’s consider just a few of the things we could drag back to Britain if we were to leave the European Union.
We could drag back our freedom to trade. The Common External Tariff marks the European Union’s answer to Donald Trump’s wall, a barrier preventing free trade and cooperation between nations within this customs union and those outside. A barrier which prevents the United Kingdom engaging in free trade with nations whom we lack non-tariff barriers to trade with, nations whose trade deals are written and signed in English, nations with whom we have pre-existing historical linkages. But alas the CET is not the only barrier, a key part of dragging back our freedom to trade is regaining our seat at the world’s table. Let’s use our tugboat to grapple onto our seat at the World Trade Organisation and drag it back into its place at the high table, so that we can form free trade deals with the growing economies of the world and the markets of tomorrow.
We could drag back our democracy. The EU is not just undemocratic but antidemocratic. Jean-Claude Juncker was elected by 0.0000043% of the 600 million residents of the European Union. Juncker of course being our Chief Legislator as President of the only body with the power to propose legislation. Democracy is about power being wielded as close to the people it effects as possible, it is about being able to see our representatives and to hold them to account. When you cannot vote out your legislators, you are not living in a democracy. We cannot see the people that make our laws, we cannot hold them to account, we cannot throw them out. Let’s use this tugboat to drag back legislative powers and revitalise democracy in the United Kingdom, pulling powers down from a supranational body into the Westminster parliament and pulling down further powers from Westminster into local government, so that decisions which effect Southampton are made in Southampton and decisions which effect the United Kingdom are made in the United Kingdom.
We could drag back our sovereignty, we could drag back our control, we could drag back crucial legislative areas. Most importantly, let’s use our tugboat to drag ourselves out into the world. Let’s put Britain back at the forefront of world change, we can lead the way into a new era of global cooperation on trade, global cooperation on climate change, global cooperation to tackle poverty. There is nothing that can be done by 28 nations that couldn’t be done better by 197. We are a great country, a country of innovators and inventors, the country of Brunel, of Shakespeare, of Chaucer. We have led the world before, let’s do it again. I do not want to use a tugboat to drag Britain out into the Atlantic, I want us to use it to drag us back out into the world again.