A few months after Brexit the UK economy has not disappeared into a black hole. A few better-than-expected economic indicators has been jumped upon by the Brexiteers as proof that we are going to be all-right outside the union. But it is of course way too early to tell. Several remainers are arguing that things will get worse from here. They may still be right. It all depends on what Britain does with its new-found freedom.
One thing is clear, though: outside the EU, Britain has a chance to embrace trade and free enterprise in a way that was not possible as part of the EU. The breakdown of the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trading and Investment Partnership (TTIP) makes it abundantly clear that the EU is not a free trade beacon, but a protectionist club. There are just too many EU demands on environmental, public health and consumer protection standards to seal a deal. And the powerful EU farm lobby is petrified that the deal could mean competition. Typical EU, claiming to protect the consumer, while guaranteeing higher food prices.
The fiasco illustrates neatly why one always have to be wary of trade deals. Should the EU have succeeded in including this myriad of rules in the TTIP, the effect would maybe be more trade, but also a US import of EU regulation, lowering prosperity on that side of the Atlantic. A free-trade Britain should pursue real free-trade agreements, focusing on the removal of trade barriers and not on harmonization of regulatory regimes. The resultant competition between producers AND regulators could introduce well-needed sanity into regulation.
The UK is no longer tied to the French and other anti-trade campaigners. The outgoing US President Obama may still put Britain at the back of the trade negotiation queue, but will a new president do the same? Well, with the protectionist agenda both presidential candidates are pushing, maybe they will put everyone at the back… But a Britain outside the EU certainly has an opportunity to be a leader in global trade. Soundbites from PM Theresa May indicates she may be ready to grab the opportunity. Only time will tell if she is.