Some of you will remember the disastrous Conservative slogan in the 1997 election “New Labour, New Danger”. It failed because it was so far away from the realities of how the public perceived “Bambi Blair”. Then in 2017, we made the same mistake. A leader who had done four big U-turns, including on what she said was the main issue in the election (Brexit) and the calling of the election itself, chose to campaign under the slogan “Strong and Stable”. The obvious contradictions and hubris made the electoral slump in Tory fortunes inevitable.
It’s bad enough when slogans diverge from facts on the ground, but catastrophic when policies ignore reality as well.
This week’s punitive tariffs on Bombardier show the astonishing gap in reality between the government’s stated policy on trade and the real state of the world. It will be fine to leave the Single Market, we are told, because we are first in line for a trade treaty with the USA. Our hopes for prosperity are thus pinned to cutting a deal with a President whose number one priority is to renegotiate all America’s trade treaties to be more favourable to the USA – and so inevitably less favourable to its partners. There is no President in the modern era who is less likely to give us what we want.
Leave Mean Leave’s Richard Tice got a cheap cheer on Question Time last night with a tub thumping speech about how he’d fight for Britain in any trade talks – but it’s as much a fantasy as the £350 million or the armies of Turkish migrants about to descend on the UK. Sure – we can do a deal with Trump. Anyone can do a deal. But can we do a good deal?
If we crash out of the Single Market and all the trade treaties negotiated on our behalf by the EU, we will be simply desperate to do deals – with anyone. Every country with which we negotiate will know that. And all the ones that count – the EU, the USA, China, India, Japan – are more powerful than we are. So the deals won’t be great and the coming months will make that clearer and clearer.
It’s not “talking down Britain” to live in the real world. America slapped tariffs on Bombardier despite our Prime Minister’s direct plea – his domestic audience matters more. Equally, the EU won’t make our life easy because it’s very existence is threatened if members can leave and get equally good terms on the outside – anyone who thinks otherwise is just kidding themselves.
As patriots, we at Citizens want Britain to be strong and formidable in the world. Within the EU we are one of the three dominant voices in the world’s largest free trade area. Outside it, we would be a medium sized-economy in a world of consolidating power blocs. If Breaks-it goes ahead, we would not have taken back control, but given it away.