The vote to leave the European Union presents itself as optimistic. We can reach new heights and rediscover what we once took for granted – it is a message that our best days are ahead.
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It is arguably one of the reasons that the Leave side won. It was more positive and outward looking. Unlike the campaign in Scotland in 2014, Leave campaigners in this referendum were also realistic. In Scotland, the Yes campaign swatted away any molecule of doubt or criticism as fear-mongering and talking Scotland down. Nobody on the Leave side promised a utopia where every bad thing would be gone if only people voted for it. But this article isn’t about looking back, it is about looking forward – as we need to do now as a nation.
In 2006 the EU accounted for 55% of our exports, today it accounts for 45% – now that we are autonomous, exports to the European Union can rise but their overall percentage of our exports will shrink when we resume free commerce with the rest of the world – in particular our Anglosphere cousins: the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
The UK has a sound market in whisky. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, exports are worth four billion pounds (£4,000,000,000) and imports of the spirit only add up to a modest two hundred million. Whisky accounts for almost a quarter of all food and drink exports. Exports of whisky have risen by 3.1% in the first two quarters of 2016 due to that rising giant that is India buying it from us. However, when selling to India British firms face tariffs of 150%.
As members of the European Union, the United Kingdom was forbidden to autonomously sign bilateral free trade treaties with countries across the globe. Now that we have raised our sights to more global horizons, we have Dr. Liam Fox as Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade to pursue our own trade agreements with other countries, and in particular the rising economic giants.
India has a population so big that the human brain is incapable of processing such numbers. 1.252 billion people live in a country which covers 2.5% of the Earth’s surface. According to the International Monetary Fund, the Indian economy is due to grow by 7.5% while the EU’s isn’t due to make any significant growth.
“The EU is our largest market”, the Remain campaign cried. Sure, that is significant and cannot be taken for granted, but a treaty with just one of the countries the EU had no signs of trading with will more than double the size of the single market. Such a treaty would be difficult to arrange – it being easier said than done would be an understatement. It is up to us to get it right and let our exports boom in an era of free trade and partnership between Dr. Liam Fox and Dr. Nirmala Sitharaman and our two governments.
It makes sense to pursue free trade. The former Prime Minister, David Cameron, claims Indian investment is creating British jobs, and one in every twenty private sector jobs in India is started by a British company. India is the third largest investor in the United Kingdom, providing employment and innovation. India is also, in some areas, stricken with poverty on a scale unimaginable even to the poorest in Britain. To put it into context: there are more iPhones in India than lavatories. What better way to aid poverty than boosting business and creating jobs providing income for the poorest peoples?
Our two nations are bound together by more than prospective economic advantages. Our friendship is forged by shared language and shared history. Our fathers fought alongside each other when 1.3 million Indians took up arms for the United Kingdom in the First World War. We share a parliamentary democracy – we Britons have the world’s oldest, and India has the world’s largest democracy. The daughter of a vicar and son of a chai-wallah, both went from little to holding the office of Prime Minister. We both exercise common law, share a spot on the rankings of the world’s most powerful militaries and pride ourselves in a free press. We produce the world’s best doctors and scientists aiding and curing illness and disease worldwide. There are 1.5million Brits of Indian origin.
Our best days lay ahead, Jai Hind.