For all our sakes, pass the deal and let Britain move forward

Boris Johnson has managed to do what most people thought impossible: he’s negotiated a new Brexit deal with the EU. And although it’s not perfect, parliament must ratify it on Saturday.

First, it ensures that the UK leaves the EU. This might seem like an obvious point to make, but it’s worth pointing out. The country held a referendum in 2016 and the majority of the population voted to leave. To simply ignore the result of the referendum would do a great deal of harm to our democracy, with many people never voting again or switching to more extreme, populist parties.

Of course, there are people who insist that there should be a second referendum – though it’s not entirely clear what that would achieve. All the polling suggests that the leave side would win again, and we’d be back in the same situation that we’re in now. And if the remain campaign won a second referendum, people would rightly question why the outcome should be considered as more legitimate than the first.

Second, it ensures that we leave with a deal. Leaving the EU’s institutions without a deal could be disastrous for the UK economy, possibly leading to weeks and months of unrest, and potentially pave the way for a government led by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – the consequences of which would be unthinkable.

Hardline Brexiteers such as Nigel Farage and his Brexit party, meanwhile, have argued that we need a “clean” Brexit, such that we leave the EU and trade on WTO terms. Not only would this put the economy in a lot of danger but it also raises questions about what would come after.

Does Farage not want to attempt to negotiate a free trade arrangement with the EU? There are trade opportunities awaiting for the UK around the world, of course, but for us to cut ourselves off from our largest and nearest trading partner would be beyond lunacy.

It also helps to preserve peace in Northern Ireland. Nobody wants to return to as things were in the troubles, with bombings, shooting and whole communities perilously divided. Therefore, ensuring that there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is essential. And Boris’s deal achieves this.

Indeed, David Trimble, who was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his work on the Good Friday agreement, has endorsed the deal, and so that should help to allay the fears of those who believe that Brexit will lead to a return to violence.

On a related note, this deal – as opposed to Theresa May’s version – is far more democratic and grants greater respect to the people of Northern Ireland. Boris’s deal ditches the backstop which risked keeping Northern Ireland or even the entire UK in the customs union without their consent. And it also gives the Northern Ireland assembly a vote on the new provisions.

Crucially, it ensures that the UK leaves the customs union. Free trade has brought prosperity to the world in a way that is unprecedented in human history. It has allowed people in poor countries to escape lives of abject poverty and subsistence, and also dramatically improved the living standards of poor people in wealthier countries. As such, the UK will now be free to pursue free trade agreements with as many countries as possible.

In part, that’s because this deal doesn’t compel the UK to follow a system of regulatory alignment with the EU, as Theresa May’s did. Although this has the potential to make frictionless trade with the EU more difficult, that does not necessarily have to be the case. What’s more, the offer currently on the table allows us to cut taxes and regulations thereby making the UK a much more attractive place in which to invest and do business.

Passing the deal will also free up the government to focus on other important areas. Britain is experiencing sluggish productivity growth which means that economic growth is slow and living standards are stagnant. And we need a bold series of supply-side reforms to help the economy to thrive.

We need to reform our tax system, making it shorter and simpler so that businesses are encouraged to invest in their firms.

We need to reform a planning system that has utterly failed to keep up with demand. Expensive housing currently prevents people from working in jobs in the most productive areas of the country.

We need to reform education so that every child receives a world-class education, leaving them with the skills and training they need to contribute to our economy.

We need to improve transport infrastructure, especially in the north and southwest. This will allow our left behind towns to benefit from, and contribute to, the economic growth of the cities.

These are just a few examples of what we need to do in order to boost our economy. These measures will require time and effort – and passing this deal will enable ministers and the civil service to work on them.

It will also hopefully lead to more respect and civility in politics. The country is perhaps more divided over Brexit than it has ever been over anything. There is a great deal of anger and bitterness on both sides which has led political discourse, and politics in general, to become toxic.

Finally, the deal will help to tackle Brexit fatigue. Save for the obsessives on both sides of the debate, the country is frankly sick of the constant debates and coverage of Brexit.

Let’s be blunt: the new Brexit deal is not perfect. But it has lots of positive aspects – certainly enough for MPs to pass the deal on Saturday and allow the country to move forward.

Written by Ben Ramanauskas

Ben Ramanauskas is a research economist at Oxford University.
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