David Frost, the Brexit minister, said in a speech yesterday that the whole point of leaving the EU was for Britain to do things differently. That was why, he said, he negotiated what is often called a “hard” Brexit, because he and Boris Johnson wanted to give Britain the maximum freedom to diverge from EU rules. He argued that Britain will only make a success of Brexit if it goes for a low-tax economy that focuses on deregulation and innovation.
There is just one problem with this vision of a chaotic, creative free-trade entrepot off the coast of the ossified European empire: it is not what most Leavers voted for. Talking about the motives of the 17m people who voted to Leave involves some sweeping generalisations, but to generalise sweepingly, most of them were voting for more spending on the NHS and a continental-style welfare state.
“If after Brexit all we do is import the European social model we will not succeed,” Lord Frost told his audience, the Margaret Thatcher conference on Trade, organised by the think tank founded to promote her free-market beliefs, the Centre for Policy Studies. “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the European Union from Britain with Brexit, only to import that European model after all this time.”
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