Tribune. In January 2017, even before the British government invoked Article 50, then-Finance Minister Philip Hammond gave an interview to the Sunday edition of the German daily. Die Welt. When asked what the consequences would be of the UK leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement being reached, his answer was simple: the UK would be forced to change. “If Britain were to leave the European Union without a market access deal, he explained, then we would suffer, at least in the short term, a certain amount of economic damage. If this were to be the case, we might be forced to change our economic model, and we would have to change our model to regain our competitiveness. “ The press interpreted this statement as a threat to turn the UK into a “Singapore on the Thames” – a deregulated, loosely controlled, low-tax economy at the gates of Europe.
Mr. Hammond thought this was a bad solution. It was never a secret that he preferred to stay in the EU, and he fought for a deal to keep the UK as close as possible to the single market and the customs union. But for many of his Conservative colleagues, the vision of a UK free from the regulatory constraints of EU membership was the payoff that justified Brexit. They saw the EU as a regulatory juggernaut paralyzing dynamic British companies with a finicky bureaucracy, with protectionist tendencies that thwarted Britain’s inclination to see itself as a champion of free trade.
They supported these arguments with numbers. Two long-time Eurosceptics, Bill Cash and Bernard Jenkin, explained as early as 2013 that the benefits of the single market did not outweigh its costs – a calculation that overlooked the benefits of European regulation. The best-known pro-Brexit economist, Patrick Minford, claimed in 2018 that the thirty years of the single market had cost 12% of British GDP.
“Do not regress”
The origins go back even further. The founding text was Margaret Thatcher’s speech in Bruges in 1989, in which she issued this warning: “We have failed to push back the state borders in the UK only to see them reimposed at European level by a European superstate exerting new domination from Brussels. “
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