There is a general consensus amongst pessimistic Remainers that a vote to Leave the EU was a vote for Isolationism, a vote for ‘Little Britain’, a vote to sever the ropes securing HMS Britannia to mainland Europe.
Is this really true? Have we waved goodbye to international cooperation, trade and peace keeping? Have we lost the influence and power we once had through our membership of the EU? Will we now drift off the map, into unchartered waters?
I’m not so sure. I think we have a chance to be optimistic about the future. After all, Britain’s power, influence and economic prowess did not come from the EU, it was not learned through the union or gifted to us, we did not marry into wealth. Britain has always been a first-class nation. We were the first global economy, sending merchants across the world to faraway lands, bringing wealth and prosperity to Britain. Then came the industrial revolution, where we flipped human existence on its head as we transitioned from an agrarian economy to become the world’s first industrialised nation, bringing with it more prosperity and power. Eventually political ownership of our trade outposts was rendered unnecessary as it became cheaper to trade freely with these nations without the cost of defending and governing abroad. We then invented the modern railway system and perfected the steamship. All the time exporting these ground breaking inventions, goods and our new economic system to the world. Time passed, the World Wars came, and Britain led the way in fighting for peace in Europe and beyond. Our prominent role in these wars knocked our economic output, but as we recovered, Britain’s reliance on traditional manufacturing shifted to a growing financial services sector primarily based in London – which still reigns strong today, accounting for 78pc of our GDP.
As the fifth largest economy in the world, Britain remains a leader in finance, law, aerospace, pharmaceuticals and many other industries, all of which are exported to nations large and small. However, our might does not stop with economics. In terms of power, we hold a position in the G7, the UN Security Council, Nato and of course the Commonwealth, whilst boasting a military ranking in the world’s top 5.
But the beauty of British power is that our influence is bolstered with some serious soft-power. We ranked number 2 in the Global Soft Power index in 2016, and number 1 in 2015.
But what does soft power look like? Think The Beatles, Harry Potter, David Beckham, the Premier League, the Royal Family, Shakespeare – our legal and justice system, our values, our culture, our education (Oxbridge), our music (Britain produces more internationally chart-topping albums than any other country). Top Gear and the BBC. Our appetite and ability to travel (British people can visit a record-breaking 174 countries visa-free). Our language. Our history. The Bible (King James Version)? English Breakfast Tea. Maggie Smith. Boris Johnson? All carving out Britain’s influence in the world.
Can any other European country compare to ours? Does any other European country balance economic might with such hard and soft power? I don’t think so.
We don’t yet know what exact trade deal we will strike with Europe, I am of course hopeful for a free trade agreement, but nonetheless, Britain’s identity and strength does not come from its position in the EU. Yes, it would be good to trade our products and services freely with the bloc, but the EU itself is not where our Unique Selling Point lies, our USP is that we are Britain! A country that has shaped the modern world more than any other.
And now is the time for Britain to renew its vows with greatness. For the first time in decades we can sign our own trade agreements based on our terms, and do that quickly. We now have a Department for International Trade… is that not exciting?! Britain could quite plausibly sign a free trade agreement with India on the day of Brexit (or B-Day as it has been coined) – a feat the EU has been putting off for years. The same goes for other nations too, the USA is reconsidering its EU-US trade agreement on the basis that Britain, making up 25pc of EU-US trade, will be out of the deal. It would appear that Britain makes the EU great, not the opposite.
So it is on this note that we should move forward. Leave or Remain, we are all Brexiteers now, we will leave the EU, so let’s look for the positives. Already Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, has announced that a dozen free trade agreements are in the pipeline (Brazil? China? Canada?). It is unequivocally clear that Britain is a desired partner, and rightly so, we have history in our sails and the necessary economic might and world power to navigate a prosperous path through the high seas and into the future. So let’s break free from the anti-global, protectionist EU, whose divided agendas have held us back, and reach out to the world once more.