10 reasons to feel positive after Brexit

Some poorer communities that were sacrificed for the good of the EU could become prosperous again; we probably would have been forced to join the euro eventually; and savings on the EU budget contribution are real

Sean O'Grady
Monday 27 June 2016 09:57
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How's your Brexit hangover? If you voted Leave, are you feeling regret, remorse? If you voted Remain do you still feel ashamed, speechless?

So you ought. It's true that many, many things could go wrong, and, in the financial markets, they have already. Still, there are reasons to be cheerful, as that great British musician Ian Dury tried to persuade us. So here are mine. One, two, three...

Remember the fundamental facts

Not catchy but keep repeating that mantra to yourself: "The only way to have lots of jobs and higher wages is to have a competitive economy." This is the fundamental fact, and, in the end, it is much more important than being in any particular club. Having a huge single market to exploit is useless if no one wants your expensive, rubbish stuff.

Greece is a full-on EU member and is fundamentally uncompetitive, hence its problems. South Korea couldn't be much further away from the EU and is now a prosperous nation that exports its electronic goods and cars all over the world, including the EU. Germans buy Hyundai and Samsung stuff even though Seoul isn't a political partner and doesn’t share its labour laws or currency.

6 ways Britain leaving the EU will affect you

We can build a competitive economy outside the EU

How we do that is up to Britain. Whether we do that is up to Britain, in fact. As a free nation we have the choice to, say, follow a Corbynite socialist path, nationalising stuff and strengthening the unions and welfare benefits. Or we can go all Thatcherite (as I suspect Gove and Johnson wish to) and shred workers' rights, the welfare state and shrink taxes and the state. In either case, we can go for more or less free trade, more or less migration, more or less infrastructure investment.

That future is uncertain, because it will be down to democratic choice. Britain may make the right or wrong choices, but those choices can be corrected through general elections and parliamentary votes. We should be optimistic about that.

As Jeremy Corbyn says, we can ban zero-hours contracts even if we are outside the EU. There is nothing intrinsically socialist about the EU.

We live in a stable, venerable democracy

Pompous stuff, yes, but true and long-term strengths. Without being rude, not all of Europe has the same uninterrupted run of political stability. Absurd and indefensible as it is in so many ways, the monarchy, particularly the present incumbent, is a visible symbol of that. The EU's political framework leaves plenty to be desired, as even its fans agree.

We have the pound

Yes, it looks sickly just now, but it has never suffered the existential crisis the euro has, and surely will again. Sterling has been depreciated and devalued beyond recognition, but the UK has never properly defaulted on its debt. The UK was outside the eurozone but, with our financial, political and economic structures so closely integrated, we were more exposed to its inherent flaws.

Eventually, the diplomatic pressure to join the euro would intensify again – we would be told we could not be in the single market without being in the single currency. The euro's problems will not dissipate until Europe has a fiscal union; in other words, a European Treasury and a proper European government. No sign of that.

We can buy what we wish, where we wish

Once again, we can return to world markets to buy cheap food in particular, outside the Common Agricultural Policy. We can take advantage of more efficient producers of cereals, butter, meat and all the rest, and take advantage of surpluses from across the planet. Much the same goes for everything else we import.

That would mean our wages buy more and inflation would be lower, and, with the cheaper grocery bills, would help poorer people. More expensive food was one of worst consequences of joining the EEC in 1973.

The savings on the EU budget contribution are real

Though less than the Brexit campaign claimed, they are still substantial and can be spent on what the British people want.

We can still have immigration

Eastern European immigration raised British economic growth and made us all richer. The problem was political acceptability and the uncertainty about how large it might become – maybe to the point where the economic costs exceeded the benefits. It also meant there might be less non-EU migration, given the Government's "aspiration" on numbers. Now we can have migration with a policy the public actually support – a valuable thing, and the only way it can be secure and sustainable. Nurses from Zimbabwe, refugees from Syria, builders from Albania, students from China – we can have them all in a rational, planned way.

Trade deals with other countries may be easier to win

Simply because we can just negotiate and agree, we do not need a consensus among 28 quarrelling, disparate countries. We traded with the rest of the world, and the EU, before the EU was invented and can do so again.

We could get some industries back

Obviously, there's more to an economy than fish, but it is the case that for some of the most deprived, and once prosperous, parts of the country there is the hope of returning the fishing grounds, the fleets and the jobs that went with them. Grimsby, Fleetwood, Cornwall: these are the places that may well be much better off in a few years. It was always morally wrong to sacrifice coastal communities for the sake of the EU.

Without EU interference we could, if we wanted, nationalise or otherwise support key industries such as steel. Again, such policies and priorities will be democratically set through parliament.

And, finally, remember the fundamental facts (chorus).

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