Government and Institutions

Brexit – the opportunity of a lifetime


Tax and Fiscal Policy
Trade, Development, and Immigration
As a child I was used to seeing a map of the world coloured pink or red to show the vast extent of the British Empire, on which the sun never set.  At that time I believed that we British had won the Second World War, though I have long since recognised that the Russians and the Americans did most to defeat the Germans and the Japanese.

After the war, our main European rivals, France and Germany, managed faster rates of economic growth, while Britain experienced a loss of confidence, exemplified by the Suez fiasco and Harold Wilson’s premiership.  In ‘Forty Years On’ [1968], Alan Bennett brilliantly captured the essence of our dilemma: ‘To let.  A valuable site at the cross-roads of the world.  At present on offer to European clients.  Outlying portions of the estate already disposed of to sitting tenants.  Of some historical and period interest.  Some alterations and improvements necessary.’

In the early 1970s we entered the Common Market out of weakness, despite de Gaulle’s accurate observation that England was different from the other continental countries.  Sharing that view, I voted to leave in the 1975 Referendum; so I am delighted that now, more than forty years on, we are about to do so.  Some ‘alterations and improvements’ are still necessary!

We are lucky to have the chance, after all this time, to rediscover our energy and creativeness and optimism from earlier parts of our history.  Once again the world can be our oyster, in contrast to being trapped in a protectionist undemocratic customs union with an objective (which, as David Cameron pointed out, we never shared) of ‘ever closer union’. History will credit him with allowing us a way out, albeit unintentionally.

The European Union is in serious trouble, with its falling population, sclerotic economy, disastrous single currency and anti-democratic constitution. The complacent and inflexible eurocrats were unable, in their ‘negotiations’, to offer our Prime Minister anything close to the ‘fundamental and far-reaching changes in our relationship’ that he called for in his Bloomberg speech. No wonder Jacob Rees-Mogg called it ‘pretty thin gruel’.

We are well out of it; and I’m proud of the British electorate and the way it resisted all the bullying and exaggeration from our own political elite.  It’s no coincidence that in both referendums on the European Union the leader of the opposition supported the government line. To most people’s surprise, we managed to take what no doubt Sir Humphrey would regard as a ‘courageous’ decision. Now it’s up to us to make it work.

Over the next year or two we must resist the resentful mutterings of what Douglas Carswell calls ‘Continuity Remain’. Brexit must indeed really mean Brexit – it must mean a renascence of British independence and enterprise. It’s a great time to be alive!

Prof David Myddelton is the IEA’s Life Vice President and former Chair of the IEA Board of Trustees.

Read the IEA monograph ‘Breaking Up is Hard to Do. Britain and Europe’s Dysfunctional Relationship’ here.

Life Vice President and Former Chair of the IEA Board of Trustees

Professor Myddelton has been a Life Vice President since retiring from the Board of Trustees in 2015. David was Chairman of the Board between 2001 and 2015, and has also published the IEA monographs 'They Meant Well' and 'Unshackling Accountants'. David served on the Board from 1994 until 2015.

2 thoughts on “Brexit – the opportunity of a lifetime”

  1. Posted 31/07/2016 at 14:33 | Permalink

    Hear hear. A great time to have witnessed the rebirth of Britain into the world.

  2. Posted 31/07/2016 at 14:44 | Permalink

    Prof. Myddleton is absolutely correct. I voted for Brexit because we could make a new start in creating an energetic, creative and prosperous country. It can only be done under our control rather than of a bunch of self-serving bureaucrats and undemocratic politicians.

    The evidence that we can do this is the fact that the UK developed the agrarian and industrial revolutions, the fruits of which have benefited the entire world. In basic science and research the UK is still at the top of the world.

    We need a government that will recognize the country’s potential and develop it. Unhappily, to date our politicians show no signs of knowing how to do this. I’m pressuring my own MP (voted to stay) to do some independent thinking but he’s not looking good.

    There are two major steps we can undertake free of the EU: implement a long-term strategic industrial policy and set up industrial banks, preferably as co-ops, outside the existing banking cabal. Much of Lloyds and RSB are already taxpayer owned, so they’re available to split off and set up.

    Christopher King MSc DipM DMS

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