Can Britain survive outside the European Union and, if it does, what might this country look like? The Institute of Economic Affairs has pitched the question with the prospect of a €100,000 cash prize for the most compelling submission.
The Brexit Prize, referring to talk about a British exit, or “Brexit”, from the EU, asks entrants to imagine that a referendum has resulted in an “Out” vote and the Government has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
They are then invited to compose a “Blueprint for Britain” outside the EU, covering the process of withdrawal and the post-exit repositioning of the UK in the global trading and governance systems. Judges include the former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, broadcaster David Starkey and Tim Frost of the London School of Economics.
The intervention comes amid deep questions over Britain’s EU membership, with the rise of Ukip and a promise by Tories to hold an in/out referendum. Business leaders including Sir Richard Branson, Sir Roger Carr and Sir Martin Sorrell have called for the UK to remain part of the EU, but to push for reforms to make the bloc more competitive. Earlier this year, 19 prominent British business leaders said a “Brexit” would lose the UK 37 trade agreements and the “colossal bargaining power” of the 27-nation union.
They also trumpeted the benefits of closer integration on trade to include digital, energy, transport and telecoms, arguing that deepening the single market could more than double the economic benefits of EU membership and boost Britain’s GDP by £110bn. EU membership is thought to bring an extra £31bn to £92bn into the economy.
Lord Lawson said: “To date much of this debate has generated more heat than light. It is crucial that we should look into the policy framework that would be needed if Britain decides to leave the EU.
“Now that we have been promised an in-out referendum on Britain and the EU in 2017, it is essential this momentous decision is preceded by a well-informed debate. The winning entries in this competition will be an important contribution to that process.”
Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “It is time for the EU debate to be dominated by serious thought rather than bluster. There is an urgent need to consider the alternatives for Britain’s economic and constitutional position if we were to choose to leave the EU.
“Exit from the European Union now has to be considered to be a serious possibility. The task of mapping out a successful future on the outside requires serious thought and requires it now.”