There can be no doubt that the British people and their representatives in the House of Commons think that Brexit should go ahead. We made a promise; now let us stick to that promise. The referendum question said nothing about the possibility that we would have a so-called People’s Vote. The referendum on June 23, 2016, was the People’s Vote: it gave the British people the opportunity finally to have a say on our future relationship with the EU.
The people spoke, and we have to listen. The referendum question said: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” That language was approved by the independent Electoral Commission. The question was clear, and the people voted to leave the European Union by a sizeable margin.
The risk to the UK’s trade after Brexit has been much exaggerated, much like how the immediate aftermath of a leave vote was exaggerated by Government and business. The British people were promised rapidly rising unemployment, an emergency Budget, and untold horrors by those who supported remain in 2016.
The reality has been quite different, with a thriving economy, the fastest wage growth in a decade, record low unemployment and record high job vacancies. Why on earth would the British people believe “Project Fear 2”, which has been rolled out by those who seek to undermine the will of the British people?
No agreement with Europe will not mean an end to trade; that is a simply ridiculous argument. In 1980, the EU’s share of world GDP was about 30 per cent. In 2017, it was about 16 per cent, and by 2022, it is expected to fall further to 15 per cent. The EU has a shrinking share of world trade, and Brexiteers can see the benefits of trading freely with the rest of the world, which is growing at a much faster rate than the EU.
If we were to go on to World Trade Organisation rules when we leave, we would be trading under the same terms as the USA already does with us. Tariffs would average only three per cent. Some tariffs on exports would be higher, but some goods would still be exempt completely.
The biggest benefit to us leaving on WTO rules is our freedom to sign our own free trade deals with the rest of the world, such as with the world’s largest economy – the US – and with the economic powerhouses of tomorrow, such as India. It has the added benefit of meaning we would also keep the £39bn.
Under WTO rules, we will be in control of our own destiny and we will be able to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to be a free trade champion and to be a truly global Britain, unlike under the PM’s current deal.
As a Conservative, I believe in the benefits of free trade. I want to see free trade with the rest of the continent that is as liberal as possible, but that cannot come at the expense of breaking the promise made to the British people at the referendum, or by my party or Her Majesty’s Opposition in our manifestos.
Trust in Parliament and politicians is essential for a strong democracy. Across the west, we have seen declining levels of public trust in politicians and political institutions. The level of mistrust and scepticism has increased and I have grave concerns that if we do not deliver – if Brexit is stopped – that trust will erode further.
In November 2017, Ipsos MORI undertook a poll of trust in professions. Public trust in politicians was only 17 per cent, which is truly damning. To put that into context, nurses were trusted by 94 per cent of people. The ordinary man in the street was trusted by 64 per cent. Bankers were trusted by 38 per cent and professional footballers were trusted by 26 per cent.
We need to reverse that shocking trend and stopping Brexit will certainly not do that – quite the opposite. Some 70 per cent of Conservative seats and 61 per cent of Labour constituencies voted to leave the EU and they will not trust us again if we remain in the European Union.
As politicians, we reap what we sow. If we ignore and discard the will of the people, the people will rightly discard us.
Andrea Jenkyns is Tory MP for Morley and Outwood. She spoke in a Commons debate on Brexit – this is an edited version.