22 Sep Britain right to ditch ‘antiquated’ EU and seek new global trade, says Australian senator
Nick Gutteridge — Daily Express — 22 September, 2017
BRITAIN will be able to seize “huge opportunities” around the world including a pioneering new free trade agreement between Commonwealth countries now that it is leaving the EU, an Australian senator said today.
James Paterson, who is leading advocate of a CANZUK alliance between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, said Britain will be “more prosperous, more free and more secure” outside the bloc.
In an interview with express.co.uk he described many Remainers’ view of global trade as “200 years out of date” and said EU membership has held the UK back on the global stage for too long.
Senator Paterson, who is chair of the Australian parliament’s Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, anticipated a “much closer relationship” between Britain and its Commonwealth allies in future.
He said: “I think inevitably it just makes sense. There’s so much in common between our nations, such big opportunities there. It would be amazing if we didn’t seize them.”
The centre-right Liberal pointed out that “small and remote” Australia has built up enviable wealth from trading around the globe without being part of any “supranational” project that sucks away sovereignty.
Australia, which has strong natural resources and agricultural sectors, boasts one of the best GDP per capita figures in the world at £37,000, compared to £29,500 in the more service based UK.
It also has the fourth best living standards in the world according to a definitive World Economic Forum index whilst Canada, another potential CANZUK partner, is second. The UK is in ninth place, largely due to the NHS.
Senator Paterson said there is “no reason why the UK couldn’t do the same and couldn’t benefit in the same way Australia has” by striking trade deals with major partners like China, Japan and the US after Brexit.
He said: “I was very excited when the referendum was announced. For me it was just a no-brainer. The UK will always be more prosperous, more free and more secure when it has full control over its own law.
“It can also have a much closer relationship with Australia when it has control over its own trade policy and its own immigration policy and none of those things are possible while staying in the EU.
“Australia is a small country and an open trading country and that’s how we’re prosperous. We’re remote from most of the population of the world and we have a small population of our own.
“Without trade we’d be hugely impoverished, but with trade we’ve been extremely prosperous. We’ve been very aggressive on the free trade front and we have free trade agreements with nearly all our major trading partners.”
Senator Paterson said the view amongst many Remainers that trade with far-flung countries cannot replace a Single Market on our doorstep is an “antiquated” one Britain should move on from.
He said: “It’s a very strange attitude that is kind of 200 years out of date. Since the advent of efficient international shipping and air freight distance is not a very significant factor in trade at all.
“There’s been massive efficiencies over the last 200 years and innovations that have made that not a barrier at all. So this idea that because some country’s on the other side of the world we couldn’t have a good trading relationship with it is really antiquated.”
Brussels boss Jean-Claude Juncker recently unveiled ambitious proposals in his State of the Union speech to pursue trade deals with Australia and New Zealand by the end of his mandate in 2019.
Countries within the EU have no control over trade policy, which they cede to the EU Commission, but non-EU participants in the Single Market including Norway and Switzerland have retained the right to strike their own deals worldwide.
And Senator Paterson, who was the only prominent Australian politician to back Leave whilst his country’s Government openly supported Remain, wants to see a CANZUK trading bloc set up once Britain has quit the EU.
The project would erase virtually all tariffs and many non-tariff barriers between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and would allow all four countries’ citizens to benefit from internal visa-free travel.
However, members would retain the complete autonomy to reject people coming in if they had a serious criminal record or if they posed a security, terrorism or public health threat.
Such a trading area would also entail none of the political trappings of a construct like the EU, such as a Commission, Parliament and unelected presidents, instead being limited strictly to commerce.
Australia already has a mini free trade zone with near neighbour New Zealand, which Senator Paterson said was “working really well” and could be expanded to include other Commonwealth nations.
The Liberal MP insisted this would not need to be “a lengthy or complex process at all” given that the four nations involved already share the same language and close cultural and historical ties.
He said: “We have one of these already with New Zealand and it hasn’t led to any kind of loss of sovereignty on the part of either nation. We just have free trade and we have visa-free travel between our nations.
“That doesn’t mean that we can’t prevent immigrants coming from New Zealand if they’ve committed crimes or if there’s a terrorism risk or health risk or something like that, those kind of normal controls remain.
“But for ordinary New Zealand citizens or ordinary Australian citizens we can freely travel for work or for tourism or for study with no barriers at all and there are no meaningful trade barriers either. So it’s worked really well and it hasn’t turned into an EU and doesn’t show any signs of doing so.”
In particular, he stressed that because Australians “very strongly desire to have control over our immigration system”, the UK need not fear that any such arrangement would cause the same problems EU free movement has.
Senator Paterson added that the British and Australian labour markets are “complimentary” meaning there would be no concerns about wage undercutting that have been associated with EU migration.
He reassured: “Given that we share that value very strongly with the UK we wouldn’t want to sign up to any agreement that we lost our own right to do that or that took away anyone else’s right to do that.”
This article originally appeared in the UK’s Daily Express.