Ed­i­to­rial Com­ment and Conor Burns:

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - ES­TAB­LISHED 1961

Both the Prime Min­is­ter and the Chan­cel­lor should heed Boris John­son’s in­spir­ing ar­ti­cle in yes­ter­day’s Daily Tele­graph. The les­son is that we need more than merely a tech­no­cratic plan for leav­ing the Euro­pean Union. We need a vi­sion for eco­nomic and so­cial re­newal brought about by al­ly­ing with­drawal with dra­matic changes to do­mes­tic pol­icy. For Great Bri­tain to flour­ish out­side the EU, it needs to be great in ev­ery sense. We need to think big. The fu­ture is global, tech­no­log­i­cally driven and all about com­pet­i­tive­ness and knowl­edge. We will be less and less de­pen­dent on Euro­pean mar­kets as the years go by. Get­ting the ba­sics right – tax re­form, in­fra­struc­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing and an em­brace of free trade – mat­ters much more than the de­tails of our re­la­tion­ship with the EU post-Brexit.

That’s why Mr John­son re­ally did vot­ers a pub­lic ser­vice by writ­ing what he did. There is a risk that Brexit be­comes de­fined by the ne­go­ti­a­tions in Brus­sels, by tech­ni­cal po­si­tion pa­pers and by the lan­guage of risk avoid­ance. Again, all these things are im­por­tant, and in re­cent weeks the Prime Min­is­ter’s steady hand has helped steer the With­drawal Bill on its way through Par­lia­ment. But pol­i­tics is as much about per­sua­sion as de­liv­ery, and Mr John­son’s words stand out for their con­fi­dence in the Brexit project. There is no short­age of neg­a­tiv­ity in the me­dia: hard­ened Re­main­ers seem to en­joy easy and of­ten dis­pro­por­tion­ate ac­cess to TV cam­eras.

This week, Mrs May en­ters the spotlight. She will de­liver a speech in Florence lay­ing out how the ne­go­ti­a­tions have gone thus far and what she hopes will hap­pen next. This is her big chance to re­set the Gover­ment’s ap­proach to Brexit and es­pe­cially its tone. She needs to in­volve Mr John­son, Michael Gove, Priti Pa­tel and oth­ers. We need to hear far more en­thu­si­asm and far more op­ti­mism. We also need the seeds of a new eco­nomic pol­icy to be fleshed out ahead of the Bud­get, geared towards sup­port­ing Brexit and kick­start­ing the econ­omy. Mr John­son quoted Peter Man­del­son’s es­ti­ma­tion that EU reg­u­la­tion costs us 4 per cent of GDP; Gor­don Brown, wrote the For­eign Sec­re­tary, once put it at 7 per cent. Ei­ther way, the Tories should be talk­ing about scrap­ping as many of these rules as pos­si­ble – even if in some cases this means a big­ger rup­ture with the sin­gle mar­ket and its ob­ses­sion with reg­u­la­tory equiv­a­lence than the soft Brex­i­teers within gov­ern­ment would pre­fer.

Bri­tain needs ac­tion on hous­ing: build more homes and cut the costs of mov­ing by re­duc­ing or, bet­ter still, abol­ish­ing stamp duty. It needs to vastly im­prove fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion: trans­fer stu­dents from point­less cour­ses to world-class vo­ca­tional schemes. It des­per­ately re­quires bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture. Per­haps most in­trigu­ingly, Mr John­son ar­gued that bad tax pol­icy sti­fles in­vest­ment, quot­ing Andy Hal­dane, the Bank of Eng­land’s chief econ­o­mist, as cal­cu­lat­ing that re­form could raise out­put by around 20 per cent. This is a cru­cial area. Bri­tain’s tax sys­tem is ut­terly bro­ken, hor­ri­bly com­plex and ex­tremely costly. A well con­ducted and revo­lu­tion­ary tax re­form, based upon sim­pli­fi­ca­tion and a re­duc­tion in mar­ginal tax rates, would boost the econ­omy far more than even the best of trade deals with the EU. It would cer­tainly more than can­cel out the hit from any pro­tec­tion­ist moves by the EU.

Brus­sels has ac­cen­tu­ated the UK’s prob­lems down the years, but, as Mr John­son points out, once we leave we will no longer have the EU as an ex­cuse. This means Philip Ham­mond finds him­self in an un­usu­ally im­por­tant po­si­tion. The de­ci­sions he takes will de­cide where Bri­tain goes and how fast.

Mrs May’s speech in Florence should cap­ture some of Mr John­son’s sense of pos­si­bil­ity. Bri­tain is a rich, grow­ing na­tion with nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties, a per­ma­nent seat at the United Na­tions, wide cul­tural reach, a fi­nan­cial sec­tor se­cond to none, an in­ter­na­tional lan­guage, his­tory that turns oth­ers green with envy and, with the right sense of vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship, the po­ten­tial to make this cen­tury one of its great­est as a fully in­de­pen­dent coun­try.

Mrs May’s mes­sage to the Euro­peans should be: Bri­tain is an out­ward-look­ing coun­try. We re­spect Europe, we want to be friends with Europe, we love Euro­pean cul­ture and wish to re­main firm al­lies. Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, the very point of Brexit is to put power into the hands of the Bri­tish peo­ple – and any­thing the EU throws at us will be more than com­pen­sated for by the re­ju­ve­na­tion of our econ­omy, our democracy and our na­tional spirit.

‘There is no short­age of neg­a­tiv­ity: hard­ened Re­main­ers seem to en­joy easy ac­cess to TV cam­eras’

‘Ul­ti­mately, the very point of Brexit is to put power into the hands of the Bri­tish peo­ple’

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