David Davis writes for the Telegraph on the British alternative to membership of the EU


As published in The Telegraph:

Britain is not like other countries – even the EU will be forced to treat us fairly

The Remain campaign have long demanded that we who want to leave the EU set out an alternative to membership. “Do you want to be like Switzerland or Norway?” they ask, dripping mockery on two of the richest, and happiest, countries in Europe, neither of which has any desire to join the EU. “Or perhaps,” they ask, suppressing laughter, “you want to be like Canada, or even Albania?”

They try to present the Brexit negotiation as a simplistic selection of one of a series of fixed options that some other much smaller country has established. They ignore the fact that those countries negotiated those deals to suit their own circumstances on a bespoke basis. The idea that all we can do is fit into a framework designed for a country a fraction of our size is symptomatic of the unimaginative and pessimistic view the Remain campaign takes of our opportunities outside the EU.

Great Britain is different. We are the world’s fifth biggest economy. We are a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We are a leading member of Nato, of the Commonwealth, and of the G7. We are a member of the powerful Five Eyes intelligence network. We owe none of these things to the EU. We are the nation of Shakespeare and Newton, of Faraday and Rutherford, of Gladstone and Churchill. Our language is spoken by 1.5 billion people and is the international standard for science, engineering, medicine, on the internet, in modern film and media, in commerce and law. We have more reach and reputation and influence than any country of 60 million has a right to expect. And the Remain team want us to choose between being Norway and Switzerland?

The UK, once we vote to leave, will negotiate a new relationship with the EU. And like all negotiations, the outcome will be dictated by what is in the best interest of both sides. To those people who insist that the EU would erect tariffs should we vote to leave, ask why would those countries damage their own trade with the UK. Out of spite? If that is the case, then, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club which threatened to ruin me if I left it.

Ask yourself too: why do we see this hysterical response from the Eurocrats? Is it because they fear we will be a dreadful failure outside the EU? No. It is because they fear that we will be a dramatic success, and in so doing encourage other EU members to follow us out. That is oddly inconsistent with the claims of disaster put about by the Remain team.

Yes, there have been warnings of destitution and disaster from our European colleagues. But should we leave, this tone will switch from antagonism to pragmatism. This is the normal pattern of behaviour after a decision is taken, whether in business, diplomacy or politics. David Cameron and Nick Clegg attacked each other remorselessly in the 2010 election campaign. Then, within a week, they were sharing a photocall in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street.

After we leave, the same thing will happen on the Continent. Everyone will gather round the negotiating table and hammer out a deal that benefits everyone. The core of that deal will be our trade with the EU. Our European neighbours know only too well that the tariff option will hurt key European industries. The negotiations will overlap with general elections in Germany and France. Not even the French will hurt themselves just to hurt us. So does anyone seriously think that the Continent will put up barriers to trade for no conceivable gain? I think not.

And before Remain ask why Europe would give us a better deal than they give to others, this is not a “better” deal. It is merely one that suits the UK’s unique circumstances, just as the Norwegian option suits Norway, the Swiss option suits Switzerland, and EU membership works for many countries across the Continent. At the same time, we would be free to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world, an area those who advocate Remain sometimes forget. Remember, most of the world’s population and economy is not in the EU. Global trade is growing while European trade falters, and our exports reflect that.

So what would the UK look like outside the EU? Free trade with the EU, freer trade with the rest of the world. We would be free of EU government and bureaucracy, but would opt in, as others do, to those programmes that are in our best interest. In short, it would be something new, something better, something in the interests of the UK and of the EU.

When I put this case on BBC Question Time this week, the audience exploded in cheering and applause. Why? Because the British people are tired of being patronised with ridiculous apocalyptic predictions and the talking down of their nation by the British and international establishment. Most of them in their hearts want to see their great country stand up on its own two feet and once more take control of its own destiny. That is why I believe that on June 23 they will vote to Leave the European Union.